O is for … Ombudsman

 In Speak Up Month

The important role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians

Jane Touil, Senior Caseworker and Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

On day 15, we want to focus on O for Ombudsman; exploring how we work with the National Guardian and other organisations to support speaking up.

A just and accountable culture is vital for a safer NHS. This means a culture in which staff are empowered to speak up, and complaints and feedback are seen as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Freedom to Speak Up Guardians play a central role in creating this culture. By facilitating open and honest conversations between leaders and healthcare professionals, guardians help address important patient safety issues such as quality of care, staff wellbeing and training.

This approach also encourages patients and their families to have the confidence to raise concerns or make complaints.

The National Guardian’s Office’s 100 Voices campaign shares stories of guardians who have supported NHS professionals to voice their concerns. It demonstrates how their work has brought about vital improvements to NHS services.

How we work alongside the National Guardian

We know from our casework that concerns and complaints are an essential source of learning that can improve patient safety and quality of care.

Our recommendations can also help organisations learn from cases where concerns raised by staff were overlooked or not acted on sufficiently. This can help organisations identify how they can improve processes to support their staff to speak up. In turn, this gives staff the confidence to share their concerns with guardians and leaders.

We are committed to working with the National Guardian and other organisations to offer our unique perspective and help promote a culture of speaking up. By sharing learning and best practice we contribute to the wider debate on the importance of speaking up.

How the new Complaint Standards will support speaking up

We understand that making a complaint when something has gone wrong can be daunting and stressful for all involved. This is one of the reasons we have worked with the NHS and partners from across the health and care sector to create the Complaint Standards Framework.

The standards will provide guidance so that complaints are handled in a consistent, fair and open way. They will help create a transparent and safe environment that supports both staff and patients to speak up.

The standards will also help embed a non-defensive approach to learning from concerns, rather than blaming individuals when things go wrong. This should help minimise any detrimental impact on those who raise concerns and complaints.

We hope that the standards will:

  • support the Freedom to Speak Up Guardians to carry out their work
  • help staff feel safer and more confident when speaking up
  • set out how leaders should listen up and respond to concerns and complaints.

The final set of standards will take into account the feedback received through our recent public consultation. They will be published early next year.

Find out more about the Complaint Standards Framework.



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