Having the ‘Freedom to Speak Up’

Freedom to speak up OPT

If you had a concern about patient safety and care, would you raise it? 

Ninety-six percent of staff across the NHS told the most recent staff survey that the last time they saw an error, near miss or incident that could have hurt staff or patients they or a colleague reported it. Whilst this is clearly positive, we know that there are issues and the NHS wants to change its culture so that flagging up problems, risks and mistakes as they occur - and learning from them to improve patient care - becomes the norm. 

Last week David Flory, the Chief Executive Officer of the NHS Trust Development Authority, wrote to all trust chief executives about ‘Freedom to Speak Up’, the review commissioned by the Secretary of State to provide independent advice on creating a more open and honest reporting culture in the NHS. It comes off the back of the Public Inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which exposed unacceptable levels of patient care and a culture that discouraged staff from raising concerns. 

And each one of us has our part to play, says Mr Flory: “The importance of listening to staff cannot be overemphasised. When staff raise concerns, they very often know where things are not working well and when care is not safe, so they can help enormously in improving and ensuring acceptable levels of patient care.” 

The recommendations from the report include proposals for new legislation to protect whistleblowers who are applying for NHS jobs from discrimination by prospective employers. 

Consultations will also follow on: 

  • a new National Whistleblowing Guardian to protect those who speak up
  • practical help from NHS England and other organisations to help whistleblowers find alternative employment
  • a named whistleblowing guardian in every NHS organisation that staff can contact, who reports to the chief executive
  • training for staff on how to raise concerns and protect others that do so.

Chief Executive Anthony Marsh said he saw this as a positive step for the NHS: “I welcome the report and this national focus on patient safety and good clinical care. It will hopefully mean that staff and patients will have a clear framework on how they can and should raise concerns. 

“Whistleblowing is an important part of any organisation; I want and expect all of you to do the right thing, and for the ambulance service to support you to do it. It can be a challenge to voice your concerns, but we have to work together to make sure the integrity of the NHS, something that we should all be proud to be a part of, is never undermined. 

“Here at EEAST we are currently working on developing our new vision and values, and I know patient safety and care will be at the heart of that. It all comes together to create a more open and honest culture, where patients and the care we give them is once again the focus of everything we do.” 

You can find out more about Freedom to Speak Up, including a full copy of the report, online at https://freedomtospeakup.org.uk

An individual member of staff who has any concerns about a matter relating to misconduct or malpractice should, in the first instance, raise the issue either verbally or in writing with their line manager or whomever they feel most comfortable approaching. Our current whistleblowing policy, which is currently under review, can be found in the policy section of our website. 

The National Whistleblowing Helpline also provides free confidential advice to staff within the NHS and social care who are unsure whether or how to raise a whistleblowing concern. You can reach the helpline on 08000 724725 or by emailing enquiries@wbhelpline.org.uk

Published 20th February 2015

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