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Trust welcomes publication of Freedom To Speak Up report

Hospital bosses in Worcestershire have welcomed the publication of a report which recommends measures to ensure NHS staff are free to speak up about patient safety concerns.

Robert Francis QC’s Freedom to Speak Up report sets out 20 principles and actions which aim to create the right conditions for NHS staff to speak up, share what works right across the NHS and get all organisations up to the standard of the best and provide redress when things go wrong in future.

One of the recommendations is for hospitals to have a Freedom To Speak Up guardian in place - a named person in every hospital to give independent support and advice to staff who want to speak up and hold the board to account it fails to focus on the patient safety issue.

This is a role already being carried out by Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust’s ‘Being Open champion’ - non-executive director Stephen Howarth.

Stephen, whose role will now be re-named and strengthened in light of the new report, said: “Anything that can be done to make staff feel more at ease with raising concerns has to be a positive thing. There can never be too many channels in place for staff to be able to speak up.”

As a new initiative, a standing item on whistleblowing will also be included on every public Trust Board meeting agenda. It will be all directors’ responsibility (in line with duty of candour) to advise the board if they are aware of any whistleblowing activity. This will allow the Board to be made aware of the issue, and to seek assurance on how it is being handled.

Harry Turner, Chairman of the Trust said: “If our staff are worried about anything at all, we would rather they raise it when it is just a concern than to wait for proof. Even if concerns are historic or an unresolved issue, we want to hear about them. Given the serious nature of some issues, staff are not only encouraged but are also obliged to bring them to the attention of the Trust so that we can take the necessary action to resolve the concern.

“Robert Francis’ report highlights some shocking findings. The Board and I are determined to build a Trust with the highest standards, and the only way we can do this is if our staff feel listened to if they speak out about patient care, and that it is understood by everyone that bullying, intimidation and victimisation has no place.”

A number of ways for staff at the Alexandra, Kidderminster and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals to raise concerns are already in place. As well as being encouraged to raise concerns directly with their line manager or clinical lead, staff can also attend surgeries with the chairman, informal meetings with the Chief Executive where Chatham House rules apply, ‘How was it for you’ sessions with the Chief Nursing Officer, and call a confidential whistleblowing hotline.

Following the publication of the Freedom To Speak Up report, a review of all existing measures will now take place, with new recommendations drawn up to ensure that all staff feel comfortable raising any concern.