Last month I was busy producing a film to drive Health Education England's upcoming "Freedom to Speak Up" campaign.
Boy - was it a thought-provoking project.
With increasing pressures in the NHS, staff are often stretched to their limits and understandably, sometimes people do make mistakes. Other times, mistakes are made which are reckless, reoccurring and unacceptable, behaviours which jeopardise patient safety. This HEE initiative encourages people who witness unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, to speak up.
A Freedom to Speak up Guardian is now mandatory in every NHS trust and provides support, guidance and advice to anybody who may have a concern at work.
This film features three NHS whistleblowers, turned Freedom to Speak Up Guardians. All three people I interviewed were beautifully sincere, humble, dedicated professionals. Before talking to them, I had no idea how distressing speaking up could be. They told me about the emotional turmoil and sleepless nights as they wrestled with their consciences and the consequences of both action and inaction. They explained the daunting repercussions after speaking up, how people were spat at in the streets, how families were intimidated, individuals targetted and jobs threatened.
They then went on to tell me the often serious consequences for the staff of whom they spoke up about. One surgeon was charged with manslaughter, others struck off the register.
Speaking up was the right thing to do, and by speaking up, these individuals were protecting patients and saving lives.
By opening with our Guardian’s personal whistleblowing experiences the film feels human not corporate, we hear what a desperate situation they were in, and go on an emotional journey, from low to high, with them.
The whole filming experience made me realise the immense importance of the courageous NHS staff who make the decision to speak up, as well as the devoted Freedom to Speak up Guardians who are there to support them. I hope people who watch this film come to the same conclusions.
Let's hope this powerful and inspiring learning tool can educate and inform healthcare professionals and will contribute in some small way towards cultural change in the NHS.
The appointment of a National Guardian for speaking up freely and safely, and Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardians in NHS trusts were recommended by Sir Robert Francis, following his review and subsequent report into the failings in Mid-Staffordshire. In July 2015, the Secretary of State confirmed the steps needed to be taken to develop a culture of safety, and supported Sir Robert's recommendations. This section signposts you to key information provided by the National Guardian's Office (NGO) and the excellent work being done across the country to implement FTSU.