A CQC board meeting held last week included discussions regarding plans to appoint a ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardian’ in every NHS trust across England. This new proposal has come in response to concerns raised last June during an independent review of the NHS conducted by Sir Robert Francis.
Last year’s review raised concerns about the current culture in the NHS, and identified measures to establish an ethos where all healthcare staff would feel safe to speak out about patient safety and poor care. The review also highlighted that whilst there are some services in which concerns about poor care can be reported and acted upon, the handling of complaints made by staff is not taken as seriously as it should be when assessing the safety and responsiveness of individual providers.
Therefore, in order to implement an ‘open and honest’ culture of safety and learning throughout the NHS and allow complaints to be voiced, Local Guardians and a National Freedom to Speak up Guardian will be employed. Local guardians will be able to support the National Guardian through regular meetings thus will have a key role in maintaining a consistent national framework.
A paper outlining CQC’s early thoughts on the role and job description concluded that the National Guardian would:
• Provide support and advice for the Local Guardians;
• Provide support for the system, such as sharing good practice and reporting on common themes;
• Advise providers (NHS Trusts); and
• Advise staff raising concerns.
CQC will be consulting on the role and function this Autumn. It is hoped that the appointment of the role will allow all healthcare professionals to work together to encourage a culture of candour and transparency.