Liz Houchin, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust

The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, Liz Houchin, received an email from a worker acting as spokesperson for a group who had concerns which they had raised previously with managers.

The worker said, “We decided to speak to the guardian because as a group we were feeling exhausted, burnt out and the working environment was starting to impact on our home lives. We knew we could not carry on if things stayed the same. We had spoken to our managers previously, but nothing had changed. Contacting the guardian was very easy – Liz responded quickly and arranged to meet us to discuss our concerns.”

During the meeting, Liz and the team members talked through the concerns and discussed what outcomes they would like to achieve. They said they wanted to feel valued, listened to and be involved in making service decisions.

The concerns included:

  • Staffing levels leading to unmanageable workloads
  • Impact of COVID on ways of working resulting in additional workload which they felt should be managed elsewhere
  • Lack of working mobile technology
  • New ways of working that had been introduced which were not working as well as could be
  • Impact on morale
  • Consistency of HR policies.

Liz then met senior managers, who arranged an urgent meeting with the team to discuss the issues and from that meeting, the following outcomes were achieved:

  • An acknowledgement that communication was not always as good as it could be, and the team and the managers agreed to work on improving this together
  • Communication arrangements were agreed to ensure that the team felt they were not only kept informed but involved in decision making going forward, and that they could speak to senior managers should they have concerns or suggestions to improve service delivery in their area
  • Senior leaders undertaking an establishment review and the outcome of that shared
  • A commitment that decisions made would involve everyone concerned and that everyone could and should contribute to discussions
  • An understanding that there needs to be a consistent approach to policies.

Liz contacted the team and asked if they were happy with the outcomes. “It finally felt that we were being listened to and our opinions and thoughts mattered,” they said. They said that the whole experience had been very positive and wanted to share their experience to encourage others to ‘speak up’.

On reflection, Liz said, “Receiving the email with the long list of issues and hearing the impact this was having on the workers personally and professionally was profound. I was deeply concerned about their health and wellbeing. The senior management team were very receptive and immediately arranged to meet the team. I was pleased that the workers finally felt that their voices had been heard and that they had been listened to. For me this is speaking up at its best and has led to a sustained change and improvement in the working lives of the staff group which has ultimately improved patient care.”

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 enquiries@nationalguardianoffice.org.uk for more information.