October is the national #SpeakUpToMe month where NHS organisations across the country are promoting their Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardians and activities.
To provide the highest quality compassionate care to patients, NHS workers need to feel valued, supported and free to speak up. The learning and improvement that speaking up can provide is a key factor in driving change in the NHS.
The purpose of having a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian is to make SCW a better place to work, to create a culture that places less emphasis on blame when things go wrong and more importance on transparency and learning from mistakes as an NHS organisation. Whilst the role isn’t mandated, we want to demonstrate that speaking up is celebrated, and used to address errors or failings, and make improvements that benefit both our staff and our customers. We want to embed the principle, being adopted across the NHS, that speaking up should become business as usual.
In the two years since the Freedom to Speak Up guardian roles have been launched, data from NHS Trusts and organisations has shown more and more speaking up by NHS workers. In total there were over 7,000 cases brought nationally to guardians in the first year and over 11,000 in the second year. Nearly half of the cases in the first year were related to bullying and harassment and a third of cases related to patient safety. Research undertaken by the national FTSU office has shown that high performing trusts have better speaking up cultures, as perceived by Freedom to Speak up Guardians.
Confidence is a key word in relation to speaking up, as it is essential workers believe that speaking up will make a difference and their voice will be heard if they are to approach a guardian. So how do we persuade an NHS worker speaking up is the right thing to do for them and the organisation they work for?
It’s important that the guardian role itself is making a real effort to explain what it is and how it can help workers who may not want to speak up via existing routes, such as HR, or their line manager. This is what the #SpeakUpToMe campaign is about. Speaking up is a relational exercise and Freedom to Speak Up will only work if ‘listening up’ occurs and it is embraced by the organisation as whole. Only by welcoming feedback and walking the walk when it comes to acting on the information from speaking up will confidence be instilled to encourage others to speak up too.
Leadership is absolutely key to making a success of Freedom to Speak Up, so that we aim to engage hearts and minds, rather than impose conditions. Organisations that do not embrace this and see speaking up as a gift to inform learning, are increasingly out of step with the way of the world.
SCW’s MD, Michael van Hemert reiterates his support for this approach;
“I am passionate that SCW breaks down barriers and obstacles are removed that would prevent or discourage colleagues from speaking up about something that they don’t feel is right. I feel it’s important that at SCW, we live our values and create an open and inclusive culture where our people engage, and feel supported to speak up and make a difference where they feel it is needed.”
You can keep track of what is going on via the Twitter hashtag #speakuptome.