The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). It launched a new network of Freedom to Speak Up Champions as part of a wider communication campaign linked to celebrating Speak Up Month.

The aim of the network was to further encourage colleagues to speak up – particularly groups who might find it more difficult to do so. This was broadly in terms of geography (being a national organisation); service area (having a large number of teams with a large number of different job roles); and in terms of protected characteristics.

The NHSBSA Freedom to Speak Up Champion role aims to offer support and help to bridge any barriers that may prevent colleagues from speaking up. The champions are impartial and confidential, offering encouragement and signposting to the appropriate avenue for colleagues.

Expressions of interest were requested from an already established set of networks, linked to the organisation’s Wellbeing and Inclusion agenda. David Jukes, the NHSBSA Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, explains the value this has brought to the new network: “This approach has created a network of Freedom to Speak Up Champions who already had great insight into the inclusion and wellbeing agenda. They were also already well known by a large proportion of our colleagues through groups such as our lived experience networks and committees, meaning we massively extended the number of friendly faces we had out in the business”.

The approach has already proved successful. The number of colleagues coming forward to speak to the guardian has increased. Almost all of these colleagues have referenced the communication and engagement work linked to the new Freedom to Speak Up Champions Network. This has included the promotion of videos from the guardian presentations at the business-wide monthly Leadership Team Q&A session, articles on the internal intranet and Yammer channels, the roll-out of e-learning modules for all colleagues, and Freedom to Speak Up activities as part of the colleague induction process.

One of the NHSBSA champions, Sonya Tickle, explains why she wanted to get involved: “Having worked for NHSBSA Prescription Services for the past eight years, I felt like I wanted to get involved in a new initiative that would not only give me the possibility to learn and develop new skills and provide me with an opportunity to work with different areas of the business, but would more importantly allow me to help others to speak up.

“In daily life we can often see things that we feel aren’t quite right, but it isn’t always easy to know who to speak to. We may worry that we will be seen as a trouble causer or someone who is rocking the boat.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Freedom to Speak Up is about making speaking up a normal thing to do, and where people feel appreciated and thanked for highlighting areas for improvement – for both our workers and our service users”.

With the successful launch of the Champions Network, the next steps are now being implemented. The organisation’s annual Employee Engagement Survey results were analysed at the end of the year to assess where engagement and support could be further improved, and the outcomes were translated into actions for the next Freedom to Speak Up Strategy and Improvement Plan for the 2022/23 financial year. This included more communication from colleagues who had spoken up to encourage others and provide confidence in the process, and further awareness sessions for the Champions on key policies and support available to colleagues in areas such as HR, Health and Safety and Fraud Prevention.

If you would like to learn more about the NHSBSA’s Freedom to Speak Up approach, please contact the NHSBSA’s guardian, David Jukes. To find out more about the NHS Business Services Authority visit