We have published our second publication looking at the results of the 2021 Freedom to Speak Up Guardian Survey. This report highlights the experience of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians amid the continued pressure of the pandemic on the healthcare sector. It looks in more detail at the responses from guardians about their wellbeing and the support available to them, whether that’s from their leaders, their guardian peers, or the National Guardian’s Office.

Just over half of Freedom to Speak, Up Guardians who responded to the survey said that their role can negatively affect their emotional well-being. Yet when they are able to effect positive change, the role can be the most fulfilling.

A key message from the results highlights again the importance of adequate ring-fenced time for carrying out the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role. A greater proportion of respondents without ring-fenced time felt that the role reduced their emotional and psychological well-being. They also said that they spent all their time in the guardian role on case management – the reactive elements of the role (20% compared with 5% of those with ring-fenced time).

This compares with the greater proportion of respondents with ring-fenced time (34.6%), who said they split their time equally between supporting colleagues through case management and supporting their organisation – the proactive element of their role (compared to 21.7% of respondents with no ring-fenced time).

Respondents with ring-fenced time were more likely to attend guardian network meetings and access National Guardian’s Office communications and development opportunities. Network meetings are valuable opportunities to share good practice and psychological and emotional support with their guardian peers.

Dr Jayne Chidgey-Clark, National Guardian for the NHS, said:

“Freedom to Speak Up Guardians provide a valuable additional route for workers to speak up about anything which gets in the way of them doing their job.

“Lack of ring-fenced time has an impact, not just on the day-to-day fulfilment of this role, but also on Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ ability to access support.

The National Guardian’s Office has repeatedly called for Freedom to Speak Up Guardians to have sufficient ring-fenced time to carry out their role.

I ask that leaders discuss the findings of this report with their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and assess with them the amount of ring-fenced time needed to carry out the role and meet the needs of workers in their organisation. This means not only the proactive and reactive elements of the role, but also that their guardian has sufficient time to access wellbeing resources, including their guardian networks.”

Read the report: Supporting the wellbeing of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians

Read the press release