This is the fourth year that the National Guardian’s Office has surveyed Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in order to understand how speaking up is supported within organisations. Their views give valuable insights into both how the Guardian role is implemented and what further support and learning is needed to truly create a culture where speaking up is business as usual. The results also reveal details about their perceptions of the barriers to speaking up, the sources of detriment for speaking up and the network’s demographics.

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, National Guardian for the NHS, said: “Despite the difficult circumstances of this past year, the expanding network of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians continued to listen and support workers in getting their voices heard. But there needs to be a more consistent approach from senior leadership throughout the health system to ensure that all workers are listened to whenever they speak up.

“Leaders set the tone when it comes to fostering a speak up culture, and this needs to filter throughout the entire organisation. While we continue to see improvements, there remains a gap in how valued guardians feel by middle managers compared to senior leaders. Where disadvantageous treatment is indicated as a result of speaking up, managers are also identified as a significant source of this treatment. More training is needed for managers so that they listen up and follow up appropriately.”

The National Guardian’s Office has recently launched a new Freedom to Speak Up e-learning package, in association with Health Education England for all workers and managers.

Less than half (48%) of respondents said they had enough time to carry out their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role.

“Freedom to Speak Up Guardians do a valuable, important and difficult job,” said Dr Henrietta Hughes. “Senior leaders must assure themselves that workers throughout their organisation have confidence in their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and that guardians have the resources to do their job effectively. Without this, how can the leadership of any organisation be rated higher than ‘requires improvement’ by the CQC?

“This requires leadership commitment throughout the healthcare system – not just of providers, but of the national bodies, the regulators and the professional bodies. Now is the time for actions, not words.”


Read the 2020 Freedom to Speak Up Guardian Survey Report