Report reveals more NHS workers feel confident to speak up… and more are doing so

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Over the last two years over 19,000 cases of speaking up by NHS workers in trusts have been handled by Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. These include cases with an element of bullying and harassment and that have impacted on patient safety and quality of care.

A new report published by the National Guardian’s Office reveals that over the last year cases of speaking up to guardians have risen by 73 per cent, compared to 2017/18.

Of the 12,000 cases raised between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, guardians reported that almost a third included an element of patient safety/quality of care, and just over forty per cent included an element of bullying/harassment.
There are now Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in every trust in England, introduced in the wake of the Francis Inquiry into the events at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

National Guardian for the NHS, Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, said, “The confidence that NHS workers have in the ability of guardians to address the issues they raise is growing and more learning is being brought to organisations to help them improve.

“Our goal at the National Guardian’s Office is to make speaking up business as usual, and while there is some way to go to achieve that, these latest figures are encouraging.”

Other trends that the report draws from the data that guardians in trusts are providing to the National Guardian’s Office are that the percentage of anonymous cases is falling, down to 12 per cent in 2018/19 compared to 18 per cent in 2017/18.

However, the report also reveals that while low, the number of workers who indicated they were suffering detriment as a result of speaking up has remained disappointingly static at five per cent.

There was also evidence that speaking up varied significantly from trusts to trust, with the highest number of cases in a single trust reported over the year being 270, while the lowest number was just one.

“Measures like the level of anonymity dropping are good indicators to suggest workers feel more confident to speak up, particularly when considered in tandem with the encouraging increase in the overall number of cases,” said Dr Hughes.

“However, it is important that each individual trust looks at their data in context and tries to draw learning from it. Organisations where very few workers are speaking up or where levels of reported detriment are far higher than the norm should look to understand and address the issues that may account for that.

“Encouraging workers to speak up, and removing barriers that may prevent them from doing so, is in the best interests of every organisation that wants to deliver the highest quality care possible.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that while Freedom to Speak Up is there for workers, it ultimately all comes back to patients and service users – keeping them safe and treating them well.”

Read the full press release

Read the report

January 14, 2020