The Freedom to Speak Up team at London Ambulance Service NHS Trust have shown a commitment to making speaking up accessible for all workers. Their efforts led to them being shortlisted for the Freedom to Speak Up Organisation of the Year Award at the 2020 HSJ Awards.

Carmen PetersDeputy Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at LAS, said, “We cover the whole of London here at the London Ambulance Service and there are around 6,000 workers. It is vital that every single worker feels able to speak up – regardless of their location, seniority, race or any other characteristic.

Given the wide geographical span that LAS covers, the Freedom to Speak Up team have had to work hard to increase visibility across the organisation. Making the service known to new workers at induction is one way this has happened. The Freedom to Speak Up team also present to workers on the CEO’s annual roadshow, which covers locations across the capital. 

The Freedom to Speak Up team comprises a full-time Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, Deputy Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, 28 Freedom to Speak Up Champions, and an executive director and non-executive director. The 28 champions come from a range of professional backgrounds, including call handlers, frontline ambulance crew members and support staff. This reflects the diverse workforce at LAS and encourages speaking up at local and senior level. 

Collaborative working is a key part of embedding a speaking up culture throughout LAS. The Freedom to Speak Up team identified some groups of workers who are less likely to speak up, despite being at a higher risk of being mistreated or marginalised. This prompted some collaborative work with networks, such as the B-ME forum and the LGBT society. By working together with the networks, the Freedom to Speak Up team was able to better understand the needs of these workers and encourage them to raise concerns if they need to. A disability network, which did not previously exist at LAS, was also set up by the Freedom to Speak Up team. 

As a result of working with these networks, the Freedom to Speak Up team was invited to join the Senior Management Team at LAS to co-produce a behavioural change programme. This was aimed at creating a culture which reduced bullying and discrimination. The Freedom to Speak Up team also worked in partnership with the B-ME forum last October to produce a joint campaign for Black History Month and Speak Up Month. They raised awareness by using examples of black people who have changed history by speaking up. 

The efforts of the Freedom to Speak Up team have been echoed by the Senior Management Team, who are committed to improving the speaking up culture at LAS by offering time, energy, resource and support. The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian has monthly one-to-ones with the CEO and other senior figures at LAS, while working with the executive director and NED to develop a Freedom to Speak Up strategy. 

This commitment to creating an open speaking up culture led to LAS being the most improved trust in our 2019 Freedom to Speak Up Index report. Rather than seeing an increasing number of speaking up cases as a cause for concern, the focus is on the opportunities to make improvements. The Freedom to Speak Up team at LAS continue to work hard to embed a culture which gives a voice to all workers within the organisation, regardless of ethnicity, seniority, location or other factors.  

Carmen added, “At LAS, our Freedom to Speak Up team are continuing open and transparent discussions across various departments to coordinate ongoing development of the speak up culture across the trust. Further discussions will be had throughout the year, bearing in mind the impact of COVID-19 and the challenge of being of visible to workers. The support of our communications team helps us to raise awareness so that workers feel empowered and safe to raise a concern and speak up.”