Bernadette Rochford, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Bernie has been recognised with the Member of the Order of the British Empire award for her services to the NHS.

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, National Guardian for the NHS, said, “Bernie so richly deserves this honour. She has been a leading light in the establishment of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian network. Firstly, with her resilience in the face of her own challenging speaking up experience; and then as a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, supporting workers so that they might not suffer the same experience she did.

“Bernie was part of the National Guardian’s Office’s first advisory working group before going on to take the role as a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. Now there are over 700 guardians, ensuring that workers are thanked and supported when they speak up and that change happens. This recognition of Bernie’s work shows how far we have come. Her honour sends the message that those who speak up should be celebrated. I am delighted that Bernie is being honoured for her strength, moral courage and compassion.”

The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role did not exist when Bernie spoke up in 2011. After suffering detriment as a result of speaking up, Bernie was appointed as the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Mersey Care in 2018, eager that other healthcare workers did not share her poor experience.

Three years later, Bernie has received the MBE for her work in this role. She said, “I am humbled by this recognition and fellow guardians’ generosity of spirit, sharing learning, insight and resources, as well as attempts that haven’t yet borne fruit. I’ve learnt not to expect to reap and harvest at the same time as sowing seeds – it all takes time. I wish I had better understood that back in 2011 as ten years on, some issues are still coming to light whilst others were borne years ago.Bernie Rochford

“My understanding of Freedom to Speak Up and the guardian role has also evolved over time. I believe guardians play an important role in holding a collective vision for others of continuous improvement in working relationships and practice. It’s not so much what we are against but what we are for that generates energy and momentum; and being guardians for improved ways of working, engagement and realising potential within others and services is what is needed now.

“This is very different to glossing over or covering up wrongdoing. We are all accountable. But it is more about enabling new ideas and practices to emerge from those that didn’t go as planned and for outdated processes to be held to the light and reviewed. As Leonard Cohen sang “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. I hope as Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, we can encourage more ‘reflective’ practice than ‘rehashing’ practice and bring to light all that is waiting to emerge”.


During October Speak Up Month, Bernie wrote a guest blog for our website on ‘Forgiveness’. You can read her thoughts on why this is important here.