Helene Donnelly

The importance of health and social care workers feeling free and enabled to speak up when something is not right is more important now than ever. We all need to understand how daunting it can be, especially if working within negative and dismissive cultures.

In 2013, I created the role of Ambassador for Cultural Change and in 2015 called for what became the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role to exist in every trust. I am proud to see how far this has developed over the intervening years and how the FTSU Guardian networks have united to support, inspire and learn from each other.

However, there is still much more that needs to be done. All of us working in the NHS and Social Care must continue to understand how difficult it can still be for our colleagues to speak up and raise concerns. Often these concerns relate to negative behaviours or conduct from colleagues and oppressive or bullying working relationships. Speaking up about these issues can be the hardest thing to do. We can all understand how this can impact negatively on patient care and safety, by depleting staff focus, wellbeing, morale and resilience. We must all unite to support each other in creating positive cultures and working environments, showing care, compassion and understanding to each other.

Leadership across the NHS and Social Care systems needs to genuinely understand the importance of uniting the workforce in cultural change. For too long, lip service has been paid to this and we still see too many dedicated, skilled, compassionate and caring colleagues leaving their jobs and their professions. This is not solely because of the ever-increasing pressure on them to do their jobs safely but is far too often because they do not feel truly valued, respected and supported by their colleagues or leadership. This is an indictment, and whilst The People Plan does much to acknowledge and address these problems, we all must understand our roles and responsibilities in bringing about real lasting cultural change.

We need greater understanding from those in leadership and workforce development to utilise their Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in galvanising support and promoting compassionate working environments. This is a collective responsibility and will enable staff to Speak Up freely and proactively.

So, this national Speak Up Month, I am calling for the National Guardian and my fellow FTSU Guardians to unite with me in calling for greater understanding associated with wellbeing and morale across the health and social care systems. We need to unite to develop better, consistent reporting and data management to enable a true picture and understanding of how and why many health and social care workers are speaking up about negative and bullying behaviours.

True understanding and unification is essential if we are to all pull together to promote supportive, compassionate & considerate cultures.

In order to help care for our patients and service users, we must care for and support each other, now more than ever.

This blog was published as part of the Alphabet of Speak Up in October 2020’s Speak Up Month