Independent health sector has positive ‘speaking up’ culture, report finds

David Hare looks at the NHS Long Term Plan
David Hare, chief executive, IHPN

‘Freedom to speak up’ guardians working for independent healthcare providers have the most positive ‘speaking up’ culture in their organisations, according to a report.

An annual survey by the National Guardian’s Office asked guardians and those in a supporting role, about how speaking up is being implemented in their organisation.

The office surveyed almost 600 freedom to speak up guardians.

The report found three quarters of guardians working in independent providers agreed that ‘my organisation has a positive culture of speaking up’, compared with 62% of respondents from NHS organisations and healthcare regulators.

Almost two thirds (65%) went on to agree that ‘people in my organisation do not suffer detriment as a result of speaking up’, with just 13% of independent sector guardians stating ‘there are significant barriers to speaking up in my organisation’, compared with 30% of guardians from all organisations that responded.

Managers and senior leaders in the sector were also found to be more supportive of staff who raised concerns around safety and other key issues.

Almost seven in ten (69%) of guardians in the independent sector said that ‘managers support staff to speak up’, rising to 75% who believed senior leaders backed staff in this area. This falls to just 45% and 65% respectively for all guardians.

‘In working to promote a much more open and transparent culture in the health service, freedom to speak up guardians play an absolutely vital role in improving safety and the quality of care delivered to patients, and we encourage all independent healthcare providers to appoint a guardian,’ said David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network. ‘While there’s still more to do on this agenda, it’s encouraging to see the guardians’ work being so embraced by independent providers, with a clear steer from the top that speaking up and identifying barriers to delivering the best possible care is a priority for all those working in the sector.’

The National Guardian’s Office works to make speaking up become business as usual to effect cultural change in the NHS.

The office leads, trains and supports a network of guardians in England and conducts case reviews of organisations when it appears that speaking up has not been handled according to best practice.

There are more than 500 fully trained guardians in NHS and independent sector organisations, national bodies and elsewhere that ensure workers can speak up about any issues impacting on their ability to do their job.