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FIONA HOGG: Health Matters - Speaking up is only useful if someone is prepared to listen, says NHS Highland's director of people and culture as she highlights Whistleblowing Standards

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Guardians have been visiting various sites during Speak Up Week.
Guardians have been visiting various sites during Speak Up Week.

Last week was Speak Up Week – a new initiative from the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO).

Speaking up is something I am passionate about and we have introduced a range of ways in NHS Highland for colleagues to share their views and be heard and responded to, whether that’s on a personal level or because they have concerns about work.

In particular, we used Speak Up Week to promote the national Whistleblowing Standards: a national system for raising concerns about the NHS in the public interest, where there is a risk of harm or wrongdoing, such as patient safety issues, fraud, unsafe working conditions or poor practice.

Anyone who is delivering an NHS service – so that can include volunteers, contractors and students as well as employees – can raise a whistleblowing concern.

Each board has a confidential contact who makes sure colleagues are supported through the whistleblowing process, and that decisions are made and recorded appropriately.

The confidential contact for NHS Highland is our Guardian Service, and they can be contacted by emailing contact@theguardianservice.co.uk or calling 0333 733 8448.

Throughout Speak Up Week, Julie and Derek, our guardians, have been visiting locations across Highland and Argyll and Bute, to reach as many colleagues as possible.

We also recently published our Whistleblowing Annual Report, which you can read on our website: it’s important that we record and share the types of concern raised, and what we have done about them and how we continue to improve our processes.

In a separate but related role, the Guardian Service also provides an independent, confidential service which supports colleagues who may wish to discuss an issue, raise a complaint, or explore other ways of making their voices heard. If they have a personal concern, including issues such as bullying, grievances or other problems at work, the Guardian Service can also offer impartial support and advice. Anyone who has an issue at work and wants to find out what the options are to tackle it can email contact@theguardianservice.co.uk or call 0333 577 5955.

We want colleagues to feel able to speak up about, and get support with, personal issues too. The NHS Highland Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a confidential service delivered by a professional and independent provider.

It provides access to face-to-face and telephone counselling and specialist information services, including money and debt information, legal information, health and wellbeing and family care information.

Any colleague who is facing personal or work-related problems that may be affecting their health, wellbeing or performance can call 0800 358 48 58 or go online to access the EAP.

Throughout Speak Up Week, we’ve been promoting training and learning for managers, in particular, so that they know how to listen to and act on concerns raised. After all, speaking up is only useful if someone is prepared to listen. Often things can be resolved at an early stage and, where we may not be able do as someone has suggested, it’s important that we explain why and thank people for their input.

And finally, we’ve been sharing ways that colleagues can speak out about the great work we are doing too. Whether it’s sharing praise for a colleague who has gone above and beyond, nominating a team for an award, or simply taking the time to say ‘thank you’, we need to recognise and learn from the amazing work our teams do, day in, day out.

Patients, carers, families and service users are all welcome to speak up and give us feedback. You can email NHSHighland.feedback@nhs.scot or go to CareOpinion.org.uk to let us know what went well with your care and what we can improve. I promise we’ll be listening.

Fiona Hogg is NHS Highland’s director of people and culture.

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