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New report finds independent health sector has most positive “speaking up” culture

Date of publication: 27th Feb 2020

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“Freedom to Speak Up” Guardians from independent providers of healthcare have the most positive perception of the “speaking up” culture in their organisations, according to the latest report from the National Guardian’s office.

Surveying almost 600 Freedom to Speak Up Guardians (FTSUGs) – a role established following Sir Robert Francis’ “Freedom to Speak Up” Review to help develop cultures where safety concerns are identified and addressed at an early stage – the National Guardian’s report has found that across all healthcare providers and regulators, independent health providers come out on top in terms of their culture around “speaking up”.

The report found that three quarters of FTSUGs working in independent providers agreed that “my organisation has a positive culture of speaking up”, compared with 62% of respondents from NHS organisations and healthcare regulators. Almost two thirds (65%) went on to agree that “people in my organisation do not suffer detriment as a result of speaking up” (a figure that drops to 45% in all providers), with just 13% of independent sector FTSUGs stating that “there are significant barriers to speaking up in my organisation”, compared with 30% of guardians from all responding organisations.

Managers and senior leaders in the independent health sector were also found to be more supportive of staff who raised concerns around safety and other key issues. Almost seven in ten (69%) of FTSUG in the independent sector said that “managers support staff to speak up”, rising to 75% who believed that senior leaders supported staff in this area. This falls to just 45% and 65% respectively for all FSUGs.

All providers of NHS services subject to the NHS Standard Contract are obligated to have a FTSUG, and there are already almost 100 working in the independent health sector. IHPN are looking to build on this work and are calling for all independent providers to appoint a Guardian if they haven’t already done so and who should submit data to the National Guardian’s Office. One of the report’s key recommendations is for Guardians in organisations reporting positive speaking up culture to support their Guardian peers in other organisations as part of the “guardian network”.

David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said:

“In working to promote a much more open and transparent culture in the health service, Freedom to Speak Up Guardians play an absolutely vital role in improving safety and the quality of care delivered to patients, and we encourage all independent healthcare providers to appoint a Guardian.

“While there’s still more to do on this agenda, it’s encouraging to see the Guardians’ work being so embraced by independent providers, with a clear steer from the top that speaking up and identifying barriers to delivering the best possible care is a priority for all those working in the sector”