Another empty promise by the National Guardian’s Office:  Freedom To Speak Guardians will listen and learn from ex-employees

Dr Minh Alexander, NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist 9 November 2019

The leitmotif of the National Guardian’s Office, a glorified minor outlet of the Department of Health and Social Care Press Office with a Head of Office who came from DHSC, is undelivered and undeliverable promises.

The National Guardian has recently got a new website, along with this catchy claim, in the usual declamatory style:

How to speak up

I no longer work in the organisation where the matter I want to speak up about took place – what do I do?

If the organisation you have left has a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, you will be able to speak up to them. They will be grateful for any information that will enable them to support their organisation to improve.” [My emphases]

As usual, this claim is supported by no evidence whatsoever.

It is just non-governance by hollow, autocratic edict.

The claim is untrue of course.

But such glib assurance poses a threat to inexperienced staff who may take it on faith.

I have written to the National Guardian, with evidence, to suggest that she removes this claim and also that she sets a few hats straight on correct practice, as well as policy.

Some national NHS bodies and NHS trusts presently issue guidance that suggests only current employees can raise concerns, despite the fact that it has been established in law that former employees are also covered by UK whistleblowing law.

Self-explanatory correspondence with the National Guardian is provided below in the appendix.

The case of Dr John Bestley, which is not about whistleblowing but nevertheless falls within the remit of Freedom To Speak Up Guardians, is used to illustrate the issues. His Freedom To Speak Up Guardian took the trust line that his case was closed and indicated that he needed to produce ‘new information’ in order for her to get involved in his case.

In fact, Dr Bestley’s case was an exemplar of all that is seriously weak, wrong and wasteful in tNHS disciplinary processes, despite decades of inquiries and recommendations on how the system should change:

Waste Industry: The NHS disciplinary process & Dr John Bestley

Governments are not wont to listen to anything that involves giving up grip or ceding power to the frontline, and that is why the current government keeps on propping up its moribund Freedom To Speak Up scam.

It is extinct, deceased, no more, lifeless, passed on, defunct, departed, Mr Hancock.

 

dead parrot

 

APPENDIX: CORRESPONDENCE WITH HENRIETTA HUGHES, NATIONAL FREEDOM TO SPEAK UP GUARDIAN

BY EMAIL

Dr Henrietta Hughes

National Freedom To Speak Up Guardian

Care Quality Commission

9 November 2019

Dear Henrietta,

Accuracy of your claim that Freedom To Speak Up Guardians will engage with former trust employees who raise concerns 

On your new website it is claimed that:

I no longer work in the organisation where the matter I want to speak up about took place – what do I do?

If the organisation you have left has a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, you will be able to speak up to them. They will be grateful for any information that will enable them to support their organisation to improve.”

I am concerned that this statement does not reflect the reality of the situation, and that you are making promises to workers that are not based in fact.

A number of former NHS staff have told me that they have tried to inform Freedom To Speak Up Guardians of poor experiences as NHS employees, but were told that this was outside of the respective Guardians’ remits because they are not current staff, because the organisation has closed their cases or simply with no reason given.

NHS Employers’ guidance is written only for staff currently employed by the NHS:

“f you are employed within the NHS and you wish to raise a concern,”

https://www.nhsemployers.org/retention-and-staff-experience/raising-concerns-whistleblowing/information-for-staff

Some NHS organisations have written their local whistleblowing policies so that instead of following the national template provided by NHS Improvement which states that “anyone who works (or has worked)” in the NHS can raise a concern, their local policy merely states that anyone who currently works in the NHS, or just the trust, can raise a concern.

These are some trusts that currently use more restrictive inclusion criteria that focus only on current employees:

Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

“This Policy applies to all those working for the Trust, whether employed, workers, self-employed, or working on behalf of an agency or contractor. It also applies to volunteers, those offering their time in honorary positions, students, apprentices and trainees on placement.”

https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/content/uploads/2016/11/NTWHR06-RaisingConcerns-V05-Jul18.pdf

Sussex Partnership NHS FoundationTrust

“1.3.1 Who can raise concerns? Anyone who works in the NHS or for an independent organisation that provides NHS services can raise concerns. Including agency workers, temporary workers, students, volunteers, and governors.”

https://www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/freedom_to_speak_up_policy_april_2016.pdf

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

“6. Application and scope 6.1 This policy applies to all those who are involved with the trust. This includes full-time or parttime employees, self-employed, those who are working in the trust through an agency or bank, as a volunteer, students, trainees, those on an honorary contract, patients, suppliers, providers etc. For ease, and where applicable the term “worker” will be used throughout the policy and associated procedure. Volunteers are not covered under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.”

http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/files.royalfree.nhs.uk/Patient_safety/Speaking_up_Policy_and_Procedure_August_2016.pdf

West Hertforthordshire Hospitals NHS Trust

“This policy applies to all those involved with the Trust, including permanent employees, those working through NHSP or an agency, volunteers, students, those on honorary / fixed term contracts, providers, suppliers.”

https://www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/foi_publication_scheme/documents/trust_policies/HR047_Speaking_Up_Policy_v8.pdf

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Target audience [of the trust whistleblowing policy]

All Trust employees, volunteers, students, bank workers, agency staff, Governors, NonExecutive Directors and contractors.”

https://www.nottinghamshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/download.cfm?doc=docm93jijm4n4822

I give an examples of a former NHS trust employee who approached their trust Freedom To Speak Guardians but was discouraged:

Dr John Bestley

Dr John Bestley was found by an Employment Tribunal to have been unfairly dismissed by Humber NHS Foundation Trust. In a separate process, he was also compensated for serious personal injury caused by his employer.

He asked to brief the Freedom To Speak Up Guardian at the trust about his experiences, because the trust had failed to engage with him after the ET found in his favour, and it learned no lessons.

His case is summarised here:

https://minhalexander.com/2017/10/21/waste-industry-the-nhs-disciplinary-process-dr-john-bestley/

The Humber NHS Foundation Trust Speak Up Guardian curtly informed him that she considered his case was ‘closed’ and indicated that she would require ’new’ information in order to take action.

The correspondence between Dr Bestley and the Humber Freedom To Speak Up Guardian is provided below .Dr Bestley’s case involved serious wrongdoing by the most senior managers at the trust, in terms of the way that he was treated, as found by the Employment Tribunal.

In consequence, an expensively trained senior clinician was lost from the NHS and made ill, and there has since been a lack of satisfactory learning and system change.

The deflective response by the trust Freedom To Speak Up Guardian, whose other role is of ‘Transformation  Programme Director,’ is disappointing.

By refusing to listen unless he had ’new information’, she was in my view effectively pre-judging the case and following the trust party line and arguments about the closure of the case, instead of coming to it with an open mind and fresh eyes.

This is quite extraordinary given the ET findings.

I would be grateful if you would;

1) Change the wording on your website from:

I no longer work in the organisation where the matter I want to speak up about took place – what do I do?

If the organisation you have left has a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, you will be able to speak up to them. They will be grateful for any information that will enable them to support their organisation to improve.”

To:

I no longer work in the organisation where the matter I want to speak up about took place – what do I do?

If the organisation you have left has a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, you should be able to speak up to them. They should be grateful for any information that will enable them to support their organisation to improve.”

2) Ensure your Office refrains in general from making un-evidenced promises to the NHS workforce that could cause staff to make unrealistically positive risk assessments of when and how to whistleblow, and potentially ruin their lives based on false promises of protection and support.

Whistleblowing, especially on serious matters that threaten the powerful, can be a life changing event that results in financial ruin, lifelong economic insecurity, serious ill health, homelessness, divorce and the fragmentation of families.

Your office should treat the information that it disseminates with utmost seriousness, not flippant promises written by those with public relations as their primary concern. This applies in particular to your Comms staff and the social media output.

3) Issue a bulletin to all NHS organisations making it clear that:

– NHS organisations’ whistleblowing policies should explicitly cover former as well as current employers [sic – employees], to reflect the scope of UK whistleblowing law

https://www.hempsons.co.uk/news-articles/whistleblowing-disclosures-made-after-a-workers-employment-ends-can-be-protected/

– Speak Up Guardians should engage with former employees who wish to raise concerns, whether or not their organisation has deemed the case ‘closed’, to make their own assessments

Yours sincerely,

Minh

Dr Minh Alexander

Cc Dr John Bestley

 

From: “SpeakUp (HUMBER NHS FOUNDATION TRUST)” <REDACTED>
Date: 4 July 2018 at 11:09:37 BST
To: John Bestley <REDACTED>
Subject: RE: Meeting

Dear John

Thank you for making contact with myself, I hope you are well.

I am aware that the issues regarding your case have been closed.  If you have new information or concerns please could you let me have these in writing so I can discuss further with Michele Moran as the Chief Executive.

Kind regards
Alison

Alison Flack
Transformation  Programme Director (Mental Health)
Humber, Coast and Vale Sustainable Transformation Partnership
NHS.net email – REDACTED
Telephone: REDACTED Mobile: REDACTED

Freedom to Speak Up Guardian
Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust
REDACTED

—–Original Message—–
From: John Bestley [REDACTED]
Sent: 02 July 2018 15:57
To: SpeakUp (HUMBER NHS FOUNDATION TRUST)
Cc: Google; Icloud
Subject: Meeting

Hi Alison,

I see that you have been appointed as Humber’s Speak Up Champion.

I think it might be helpful for you to know of my experiences, leading up to and after my unfair dismissal. There is an extensive article on Alexander’s Excavations Oct 2017, if you google my name and Humber you will easily find it. The website itself might be of interest to you.

I have repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to engage with the Trust so that lessons could be learned. I suspect that Elizabeth Thomas blocked them perhaps because she could have been criticised.

I, of course, am very unpopular with Humber which I entirely understand.

My case was not concerned with whistle blowing. I was very open about my, and my colleague’s, concerns about service developments, patient safety and bullying. However I think my experience may be helpful to you in your role as Speak Up Champion.

If you do not wish to meet with me could I ask you to both confirm that and to copy it to the HR Director and Chair of the LNC, Dr Richard Smith.

BW
John

Sent from my iPad

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A Serious Health Warning about the Freedom To Speak Up Project: What all NHS staff should know before they whistleblow

Whistleblowers in Their Own Words: What’s wrong with UK whistleblowing law and how it needs to change

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One thought on “Another empty promise by the National Guardian’s Office:  Freedom To Speak Guardians will listen and learn from ex-employees

  1. “Alison Flack – Transformation Programme Director (Mental Health)”.

    Yes, well.

    My eyes flicker between Alison’s title and the tone of her letter to Dr Bestley.
    I also scan Dr Bestley’s case, his undoubtedly sincere motives in wishing to put his experiences to good use and the barren land provided by an organisation that should be deeply ashamed of itself.

    Thank you, Dr Alexander, for putting into black and white a textbook example of organisational failure.

    I hope Dr Bestley finds a new position wherein managers are capable of appreciating his qualities instead of undermining them.

    Kindest regards.

    Like

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