EEAST’s raising concerns: freedom to speak up policy, strategy and associated action plan was adopted in November 2021. The policy focussed on providing colleagues with the assurance that they can speak up in confidence and they will be genuinely thanked and listened to. It also provided clear responsibilities for all colleagues to speak up and for managers to listen and respond to their concerns without judgement or bias, with an easy-to-follow flow chart for all colleagues. The action plan details the six key areas to support the development and embedding of Freedom to Speak Up to all aspects of the Trust within the next two years:
- Full executive support and backing of Freedom to Speak Up
- Increase Guardian capacity and resource via Freedom to Speak Up Ambassadors
- Full utilisation of the raising concerns forum and development of Board reporting
- Freedom to Speak Up communication and engagement plan to reach all colleagues
- Management training in Freedom to Speak Up
- Create future Freedom to Speak Up vision and strategy
The initial focus was on increasing the capacity of the team to effectively respond to colleague concerns. Due to the rising level of contacts, the Trust employed an additional experienced part time Freedom to Speak Up Guardian for the year to support the team. We also recruited a full-time permanent Freedom to Speak Up advisor to support with the administration, communication and recruitment of the Freedom to Speak Up ambassadors, of which we now have 10 from the initial recruitment round. The focus for the next year is to support the ambassadors into their roles and target recruitment later in the year for services areas where there is an identified need.
NHS England and NHS Improvement’s advocacy and learning (Freedom to Speak Up) team conducted a review of the Freedom to Speak Up service in the spring of 2021. This supported the development of the policy, strategy and action plan.
This year has seen the Freedom to Speak Up team actively supporting colleagues to raise their concerns. 358 colleagues raised a concern with the Freedom to Speak Up team between April 2021 to March 2022. This was an increase of over 72%, from the previous year which provides assurance that colleagues are more aware of the Freedom to Speak Up team, how to raise a concern and EEAST’s commitment to embedding a culture of trust, openness and transparency.
The average number of new concerns/cases raised each month during 2021-22 was 30, in comparison to 17 for the same period the previous year and 3 each month throughout 2019-20.
The peaks and troughs throughout the year correlated with heightened Freedom to Speak Up engagement visits to stations and offices and in October which was National Freedom to Speak up month.
Colleagues have been confident to raise a variety of concerns via the Freedom to Speak Up team, the main theme for the year was the application of some of the Trust’s systems and processes. These cases included elements of policies and processes which may not be consistently followed, regular examples include recruitment processes, policy timeframes, local decision making, staffing levels, pay and re-deployment.
The second highest theme of concerns raised was for bullying and harassment and the associated behaviours. This was consistent with feedback from the variety of staff surveys which are completed both nationally and locally.
There has been a noticeable increase throughout the year of concerns which colleagues raise regarding a senior or middle manager. We see this as a positive increase, colleagues are feeling more empowered to speak up about issues they would not previously have been comfortable to raise.
- 14 anonymous concerns were raised, compared with 3 for the previous year
- Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) has signposted 45 staff to mental health support
- 47 cases raised where a protected characteristic has been cited
- 248 out of the 358 cases have been closed, this is updated weekly
- The FTSU team have completed 49 station and office engagement visits