At South Tees NHS Foundation Trust, a nurse spoke up to the Freedom to Speak up Guardian, Rick Betts, about a number of matters.

The issues reported to Rick ranged from challenging behaviours to service-wide problems, such as a lack of leadership, management, communication and poor morale.

The nurse told Rick, “I have attempted to raise some concerns in my workplace, but they don’t seem to be getting listened to and I feel that it’s now getting turned back on me. After learning about the new guardian set up, I decided to email you to see if you can help”.

Rick escalated the matters, and an investigation was started.

From the outset of the investigation, Rick assured the nurse of the confidentiality of the process and at each stage of the investigation he kept them informed of the next steps – as did the investigating manager.

When speaking to the investigating manager, the nurse also highlighted other issues including lack of team meetings, a culture of incivility, and bullying and cultural issues which could eventually impact on patient experience and safety.

The investigating manager carried out two discovery interviews to ascertain the views of the rest of the workers in the department and also circulated an anonymous questionnaire to colleagues.

Three months after they first spoke to the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, a report was sent to the nurse which outlined in detail the steps that had been taken to look into the matters they had spoken up about. As a result of their speaking up, the following recommendations were made:

  • A communications plan was outlined
  • An appraisal process was approved
  • Training issues were addressed
  • Unconscious bias and insight training for all workers was put in place
  • Human factors training was advised.

The nurse said, “My email was responded to very quickly by the guardian. We met a couple of days later and I felt that for the first time in a while I was actually being listened to and taken seriously.

“I have been impressed with the process and how I have been dealt with since raising my concerns. I am hopeful that there will be significant changes in my place of work, going forward from this. I am glad I spoke to the guardians and would be willing to do so again”.

Rick said, “We are very grateful that the nurse felt able to come forward and speak up to the Freedom to Speak Up team. By speaking up they have helped to improve the working environment.

“We are also grateful to the investigating manager and the hard work put in by them. The organisation is on a journey to make speaking up business as usual and making the trust a safer place for workers and patients alike.”

The investigating manager said, “Listening to our workers and learning from them is of great importance to us as an organisation. Incidents like this help us to remove cynicism and build trust.”

This case study features as part of our 100 Voices campaign. If you would like to share a speaking up story for this campaign, please contact [email protected] for more information.