Health leaders urged to support workers to speak up

The National Guardian’s Office Annual Report, published today (Tuesday 17 March), reveals that more NHS workers are speaking up, but that leaders must do more to foster a positive speaking up culture in our NHS.

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, National Guardian for the NHS, said, “The introduction of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians has provided NHS workers with greater opportunities to speak up about anything that may get in the way of them delivering the best possible care.

“I would like to say a personal thank you to everyone who has spoken up or supported others to do so. Last year Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in trusts dealt with over 12,000 cases. We are working hard to train guardians in primary care, the independent sector and elsewhere to extend the impact of this powerful social movement.

“But Freedom to Speak Up can only be truly effective if leaders foster an environment where workers feel safe to speak up and where the learning is used to make improvements. At this time of unprecedented demand workers will need even more support to speak up.”

The National Guardian’s Office introduced a measure of the impact of Freedom to Speak Up in trusts in England last year with the Freedom to Speak Up Index. It showed that speaking up is improving, with 180 of the 230 trusts – that’s 78 per cent – improving their Index score over the previous three-year period.

The report also reveals information garnered from the National Guardian’s Office annual data and survey reports, but for the first time is also accompanied by a separate booklet of case studies.

“People ask us about what sits behind the numbers.”, said Dr Hughes. “Our ‘100 voices’ publication details some of the powerful evocative stories which are the real-life experiences of NHS workers.”

The publication of this report and case studies meets a commitment called for by the Secretary of State in his response to the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. The cases featured highlight the range of issues workers speak up about and the value of the work of guardians. In the words of one worker, ‘I felt for the first time that someone was actually listening’.

The report also highlights how the National Guardian’s Office influences the system and draws together the learning from its case reviews.

“This report provides a great overview of the work to date, but also points out how much more needs to be done,” said Dr Hughes. “There are challenges ahead of us particularly in primary care and beyond. It is vital that leaders value their workforce and use their speaking up to learn and improve. Together, we can make speaking up business as usual.”

Read the Annual Report

Read the 100 Voices Report

Read the Press Release

March 17, 2020