Ade Dosunmu enjoys her role as Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at East London NHS Foundation Trust. “Working in the role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardian combines my two passions for keeping patients safe and ensuring staff have a good experience at work,” she said. “I have received immense support from the senior leadership team and frontline staff have really welcomed the role; some of my colleagues call me ‘PALS for staff’.”

Ade is seeing more and more workers speaking up confidently about issues they might have otherwise left unattended or thought of as a small issue. Ade sees the guardian role as helping teams to have more open discussion about how speaking up can keep workers and patients safe and, in some cases, encouraging more feedback and information sharing.

She recalls an instance when she received several complaints about staff shortages over a short period of time. Staff shortages adversely affect patients where they lack adequate care; it puts extra pressure on staff to work with fewer resources and workers report feeling unable to provide care to the quality they want to.

“These concerns were brought to my attention by workers from different parts of the same service and I was able to see the pattern in the concern and link the issue back to the same service,” said Ade. “The issue was raised to the attention of the director for that service who took action immediately. It transpired that although managers in those services knew about the shortages and there was an ongoing recruitment plan, frontline staff were not aware that recruiting was happening at all, which led them to feeling that nothing was being done.”

An email was sent to all staff affected and a meeting was held to update workers of the ongoing recruitment taking place. Process to book additional staff was reinforced.

Speaking up about the matter didn’t mean that workers were recruited overnight, but the staff who had spoken up felt reassured that their concern had been taken seriously by senior management. As a result of workers speaking up about their concern, the management team felt accountable to them to ensure the recruitment plan was actioned.

“Feedback to workers is really important,” said Ade. “It helps them to know what is happening and allows them to speak openly in the future should they ever be worried that something might be wrong.”

The role of Freedom to Speak Up has been supported by the trust Board. The trust Chief Executive, Dr Navina Evans CBE, said, “It is important for managers to create an environment which allows staff to speak up. I have learnt that there is fear and inability to talk about the right thing hence why it is important to build the culture of listening and learning”.

This case study was part of our 100 Voices publication which accompanied the 2019 Annual Report.

Case studies are vital to illustrate the good work of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. We encourage all organisations to share the learning from their speaking up stories.

If you have a Freedom to Speak Up story to share, please send an email to [email protected]