W is for … Workers

 In Speak Up Month

Words matter, and no more so than when we’re talking about people.

When you communicate your organisation’s support of Freedom to Speak Up – do you offer it to everybody? Or to staff?

At the National Guardian’s Office, we prefer the term ‘workers’ as an inclusive way of showing that Freedom to Speak Up is for anyone who works within an organisation, whether they are directly employed by that organisation or not.

When it comes to our impact upon patients and each other, there is no distinction between what contract terms are. You may be bank staff, you may be a volunteer, you may be a sub-contractor, a locum, a trainee, or you may be on a permanent or a fixed-term contract.

Sir Robert Francis in the Freedom to Speak Up Review identified that there were some groups who were particularly vulnerable to being mistreated if they spoke up.

“Non-permanent staff are in a more vulnerable position not only because of the temporary nature of their roles, but also because they are not fully integrated members of a team, may miss out on induction explaining how concerns should be raised in this organisation, and lack support.”

He also identified the role which trainees can play in spreading good practice, but that they too may fear detriment for speaking up.

“The group of student nurses I met told me that the need to pass each placement can constrain their ability to speak up: there were disturbing, but consistent accounts of students with previously good records who suddenly found themselves criticised, if not failed, after they raised a concern.”

Replacing the term ‘staff’ for ‘workers can be the first step to fully embracing Freedom to Speak Up throughout your organisation. It sends the message that everyone’s voice is valued; that leaders are committed to listening and acting upon what is being said, no matter who is saying it.

When speaking up is considered a gift of information, the voices of these workers cannot be ignored. Because of the variety of their perspectives, they may bring objectivity and good practice from other organisations which should be welcomed.

They should have access to all the same support and procedures as permanent members of staff and should be encouraged to share their insights.

That means access to the same core training in Freedom to Speak Up.

We are delighted to announce that, in association with Health Education England, we have launched the first training module in the Freedom to Speak Up e-learning package: ‘Speak Up, Listen Up, Follow Up’.

The first module ‘Speak Up’ is Core Training for all workers, including volunteers, students and those in training, regardless of their contract terms. Its aim is to help everyone working in health to understand what speaking up is, how to speak up and what to expect when they do.

Workers’ voices form a key pillar of the People Plan. This e-learning will give all workers the tools to speak up, particularly those who may feel they are unable to, like trainees, bank staff or volunteers.

Importantly, this e-learning package is available to anybody, no matter where they work in health. Access is via Health Education England’s e-Learning for Healthcare hub: https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/freedom-to-speak-up/.

A positive speaking up culture leads to better care for patients. And this is what drives over a million people to go to work for the NHS every day. By making this training available to all workers, wherever they work in health, our ambition is to give everybody the tools and the understanding, so they feel empowered to speak up and supported when they do.

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Lisa RyderAndrew Pepper-Parsons