Blog by Lorraine Heaton, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

As the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Liverpool University Hospitals, I have long felt that to some degree, our job title misses the point.

Yes, we are primarily here to support workers to overcome barriers that they face when they feel they need to speak up. But these barriers are often more associated with how well the worker is listened to, or whether or not they receive follow up feedback about the impact that their courage to speak up has had. Workers might speak up once. But it’s the quality of the listening and following up that influences whether or not they would do it again.

To achieve excellence as a healthcare organisation, speaking up, listening up and following up well must be an integral part of everything we do, how we communicate and how we identify what needs to change.

So, in order to enable all workers at Liverpool Hospitals to see how integral this is to how we do things around here, we have created this Speak Up Cycle that is aligned to our Trust’s values and behaviours.

  • If we are living our value of being caring, we are being professional and always seeking to deliver the best standards of care, therefore, we are likely to be speaking up well. 
  • If we are living our value of being fair, we are supporting people to speak up by valuing everyone’s contribution, therefore, we are likely to be listening up well.
  • If we are living our value of being innovative, we are learning from mistakes and improving our services, therefore, we are likely to be following up well. 

This cycle, as a model of communication in teams can be widely applied to all of our business. For example, an issue affecting care might be raised in a team meeting. The team listen, discuss and agree an action, and the update on that action is reported back at the next meeting – this is the cycle in motion.

If all three of these elements are functioning well, we are likely to feel psychologically safe in our work and our teams, driven to continuously improve and therefore, achieve great care and services.

This model at Liverpool Hospitals has become a very helpful starter for many improvement conversations. It is embedded into our ‘Freedom to Speak Up Awareness’ training module for all workers. It forms the thread through all my communication with workers, leaders and managers. It will soon appear in our Core Management Programme. And I use it in my reports to demonstrate where workers are primarily experiencing their barriers.

Barriers can be faced at any point of this cycle and as Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, it’s our role not just to support workers to feel free to speak up, but to support leaders to overcome barriers they may be facing to listening up, and to help the organisation to be sensitive to the unsafe impact of a lack of follow-up. This model at Liverpool has become a very helpful starter to many improvement conversations.