Fostering open dialogue in podiatry. Speak up month in England 2023

Speak up week
iStock-1353372747 Speak up
Sue Pike, Royal College of Podiatry Council member and NHS Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, reflects on how speaking up on workplace issues should be business as usual

Speak up month in England, running throughout October, revolves around this year's theme: "Breaking Barriers." Its mission is to dismantle the obstacles that often hinder employees from speaking up about workplace issues.

As part of our commitment to the NHS People Promise, we aim to give every staff member a voice, encouraging them to speak up when something is not quite right or needs improvement. However, we understand that speaking up can be daunting. Employees may be unsure whom to approach, fear their concerns will be dismissed, or believe that their actions won't lead to change.

It's vital to break down these barriers, remove obstacles and create an environment where employees feel empowered to speak up. By doing so, they can drive positive change and promote continuous learning within organisations.

Recent headlines have highlighted the importance of speaking up for colleagues and patients alike. To facilitate this crucial dialogue, the National Guardian's Office, in collaboration with Health Education England, offers a freely accessible e-learning package.

This package comprises three modules:

  • Speak up: This module explains what speaking up entails and why it matters, suitable for all workers.

  • Listen up: Designed for managers at all levels, this module focuses on active listening and understanding the barriers to speaking up.

  • Follow up: Targeting senior leaders, including directors and governors, this module underscores the importance of taking action on raised concerns.

Making speaking up business as usual, enhances all our working lives and improves the quality and safety of care for our patients. Listening, acting and following up on concerns raised, will help the NHS be the best place to work.

In the NHS, my role as the Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) Guardian is to support staff at all levels in raising concerns, introduced following the Mid Staffordshire Enquiry in 2016. Recent events emphasize the need for a safe route for staff to speak up without fear of reprisal.

Podiatry staff, with their extensive patient interactions in various settings, play a key role in identifying patient care issues. A robust reporting culture exists in many podiatry teams, but there are instances when raising an issue may seem futile or frustration may occur if action is limited or slow. In these cases, consulting with the governance team, an executive lead, or the Trust's FTU Guardian may help. Seeking support from your own professional body or Trade Union, can also be facilitated by local workplace representatives.

For those in the independent sector, speaking up may seem intimidating and the mechanisms may not be in place. Linking with colleagues from the Royal College of Podiatry or engaging with local safeguarding teams and GPs may offer support if concerns are in the wider settings.

Speak Up Month 2023 underscores the pivotal role open communication plays in healthcare. Breaking down barriers empowers staff and ensures better care for patients. Together, we can foster a culture of openness and improvement.

Further sources of advice:

  1. The National Guardians office
  2. Work in confidence

Sue Pike is a Royal College of Podiatry Council member and NHS Freedom to Speak Up Guardian