Now that you're a Freedom to Speak Up guardian

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Wayne Walker is one of the Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardians and a multi-skilled technician at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust. This is the third in a series of blogs by Wayne, as we find out what he has been up to in his new role.

Now that you're a Freedom to Speak Up guardian

Sir Robert Francis was commissioned to investigate the failings in Mid Staffordshire and the quality and effectiveness of the service. In his final report he made a recommendation for every trust to nominate a Freedom to Speak Up guardian to help foster an open and transparent culture around raising concerns in the NHS.  

So here you are, a Freedom to Speak Up guardian, what now? What if someone actually comes to you… well, they will, so preparation is key. There is no guidance as to what you should do first, but lots of differing advice from other guardians and organisations. So here’s my opinion.

One – Talk to IT, set up a data protected website database for recording your concerns, which should only be accessible by guardians and the IT administrator. 

Two - Presentations! You need to spread the word... Induction is once a month, so we provide a ten-minute presentation within as many departments as possible.

Three - Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), including a flow chart. When I have a concern I use a flow chart, SOP and a recording template to capture the date, time, etc. Sometimes the nature of our work is very emotional and things get forgotten. The data is then transferred onto our SharePoint data base. 

Four - Form a good relationship with your chief executive and HR, they can be of great benefit for resource and support. Do not forget you are an independent resource for staff. The National Guardian’s Office is also available to support you.

Five - Ensure you have access to a suitable venue for dealing with concerns, perhaps off site as it can often be a very difficult and emotional time for individuals. 

A common concern you will have is acceptable behaviour issues, with patient safety at the end of most of concerns. One way or another, we are there to support, guide and ensure concerns are investigated. We do not do the investigating, but sometimes you need to know events to make a judgement call of where the concern should be directed to. Know your policies inside out, they are there for guidance and have originated from law Employment 1996, PIDA 1998, Health and Safety 1974 and Social Care act 2008. 

For me, it’s been a roller coaster ride as a guardian, hearing and sharing the passion of people’s concerns. I have seen the worst in people and the best, if you have integrity and stay true to yourself and have a support mechanism that you can call on to share your woes then you will be fine. My support has been my family, the Network of Guardians and the National Guardian’s Office. My colleagues have especially been a great support, they have been tested to the limits over the years and have stayed very true to the NHS and themselves with total commitment and dignity.

My goal is a simple one - to make sure staff feel free to speak up about patient safety and effectiveness of the service so we can provide safe and compassionate patient-centered care. And the people who can make that work? You, the 1.3 million staff in the NHS.

If you have any issues please contact myself or the National Guardian’s Office.

LinkedIn: Wayne Walker OR join the Freedom to Speak up Group
Twitter: @waneanthony
E- mail: wayne.walker@nhs.net

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