• Freedom to speak up guardians received more than 7,000 concerns from NHS staff in the year to March 2018
  • Bullying and harassment made up 45 per cent of the concerns raised by staff
  • The national guardian’s office does not record data on how the concerns were handled

More than 7,000 NHS staff raised concerns with a local freedom to speak up guardian according to the latest data.

However, fewer than half of these staff provided feedback and while almost nine out of 10 of those staff said they would be prepared to speak up again, the national guardian’s office does not collect national data on how the concerns were acted on.

A spokesman for the national guardian’s office did say data was collected locally on how concerns were resolved.

Of the total concerns raised between April last year and March 2018, 45 per cent of cases, more than 3,200, included elements of bullying and harassment.

More than a third of concerns raised issues around patient safety and care quality.

In more than 360 cases, or 5 per cent, staff indicated they had suffered a detriment for speaking up.

Nurses raised the majority of concerns, at 31 per cent of the total with administrative staff coming second at 16 per cent of the total.

Doctors raised only 6 per cent of the concerns recorded by freedom to speak up guardians.

Six NHS trusts reported no issues being raised at all through their freedom to speak up guardian, prompting the national guardian Henrietta Hughes to ask regulators to take “appropriate action to support these trusts.”

The six trusts were:

  • Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust
  • James Paget University Hospitals FT
  • London North West Healthcare Trust
  • Royal Papworth Hospital FT
  • South Tees Hospitals FT
  • Walsall Healthcare Trust

The freedom to speak up guardian role was established after the report into NHS whistleblowing by Sir Robert Francis QC in 2015.

The national guardian’s office is designed to support the local guardians but has no formal statutory powers although it has carried out local reviews where there have been concerns over how issues have been handled.

Dr Henrietta Hughes said: “The increase in the number of cases, quarter on quarter, that are being brought to guardians is encouraging as workers become more familiar with and confident in this new route for speaking up. It is very positive that so many of the workers who have given feedback have said that they would speak up again.

“It is worrying, however, that nearly a fifth of cases were from workers that felt the need to remain anonymous and that 5 per cent of workers have described detriment after speaking up. There is still much more to do to change the culture about speaking up from career limiting to business as usual.”