National Guardians Office releases Freedom to Speak Up strategy

The National Guardians Office, an organisation that supports NHS staff to raise concerns about issues on the job, has released a new framework for ‘speaking up’.

The strategy – called the Freedom to Speak Up Strategic Framework – is formed around leadership, workers, and the healthcare system. The guidance is to be used by those that work across the system, regardless of role or occupation.

There are now over 700 Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, supporting over 400 organisations, and the new strategy has been set out to establish clear targets and specific goals to encourage open conversation in the workplace.

Russell Parkinson, Head of Office and Strategy for the National Guardian’s Office said: “This framework enables the National Guardian’s Office to build on the achievements of Freedom to Speak Up to date and to respond to wider changes in the healthcare landscape. The 50,000+ cases that have been brought to Freedom to Speak Up Guardians have offered 50,000+ opportunities for learning and improvement. But despite this, the pandemic has highlighted how much more needs to be done.

“The most immediate concern of the National Guardian’s Office is ensuring that speaking up works well now so that our healthcare workforce feels empowered and listened to. Making speaking up business as usual will enhance the working life of the healthcare workforce and improve the quality and safety of care.

“This Strategic Framework will give the new National Guardian a framework to build upon, shape and lead.”

The NGO has set out several targets to work on. As part of the new framework, it aims to support workers by:

  • Championing speaking up
  • Reflecting the voice of workers in speaking up reviews
  • Engaging with partners to promote protection for those who speak up
  • Providing training tools for workers to promote a ‘speak up, listen up, follow up’ culture.

The current Freedom to Speak Up Guardians have been involved in over 50,000 workforce cases and disputes, and they have a dedicated section in the report.

However, the document also notes that: “Freedom to Speak Up Guardians report that they are not always supported or that speaking up is not always viewed as an opportunity for learning and improvement. Guardians themselves have felt victimised for doing the job expected of them. This must change.”

The role will be supported, as set out in the framework, by:

  • Regularly reviewing and updating the training, guidance and support provided to Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, reflecting the universality of the role and the organisations appointing Freedom to Speak Up Guardians
  • Developing a register of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians that have completed NGO Training
  • Developing standards and quality assurance mechanisms for Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.