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Freedom to Speak Up Guardians

28 March 2018

Researchers from Cardiff University School of Healthcare Sciences have been awarded a prestigious National Institute of Health Research grant to evaluate the implementation of the role of ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ in the NHS in England.

The role was introduced to help protect patient safety and the quality of care and improve the experience of workers. At the same time promoting learning and improvement by ensuring that workers are supported in speaking up, barriers to speaking up are addressed, a positive culture of speaking up is fostered, and issues raised are used as opportunities for learning and improvement.

The introduction of the Guardian role is in response to egregious failings in patient safety in Stafford Hospital during the early 2000s, where hundreds of patients suffered from neglect and harm. Workers either didn’t raise concerns about sub-standard practices or were ignored and/or victimised when they did raise concerns.

The Guardian role is not only innovative within the UK but is one of a kind internationally. As a result, this research project will provide an important contribution to knowledge of international significance. In addition to Cardiff University leading the project researchers from Surrey University, King’s College London and the University of Birmingham will also contribute substantially to the project.

This is an exciting opportunity to work with esteemed colleagues in Cardiff and elsewhere to explore an area of NHS practice that has been contentious for such a long time. Freedom to Speak Up Guardians are a unique intervention which try to improve practice in healthcare.

Professor Aled Jones, Professor: Patient Safety & Healthcare Quality; Research Theme Lead - OSDO (Co-Lead)

Researchers from Cardiff University School of Healthcare Sciences include: Dr Aled Jones (lead investigator), Professor Daniel Kelly and Professor Davina Allen; Surrey University: Professor Jill Maben; King’s College London: Dr Mary Adams; University of Birmingham: Professor Russell Mannion. The project runs for 27 months from May 1st 2018.

Key areas that will be addressed by researchers will include looking at differences in how the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role has been implemented across organisations and whether the Guardians have helped to normalise a culture of speaking up by workers, including better organisational responses to concerns and ensuring that workers who do speak-up are not victimised. The project adds to the School’s portfolio of completed and ongoing studies exploring workplace cultures and speaking up, including previous projects undertaken by Dr Jones and Professor Kelly for the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales and the General Nursing Council Trust (Kelly & Jones 2013; Jones & Kelly, 2014; Jones et al 2016).

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