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Freedom to speak up

The following information is intended for staff at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB). For information on how to raise a concern or send other feedback as a member of the public, please see our pages on giving feedback.

Speak up at UHB

Most of the time in the NHS, we work well together and get satisfaction and pride from the care we give to our patients. However, sometimes relationships deteriorate, or behaviours are unconstructive or disrespectful. On rare occasions, someone may act dishonestly or illegally.

We need to be able to speak up about dysfunctional behaviours, as well as praising excellence, because an unhappy workplace cannot provide the best quality care to patients.

Freedom to Speak up Guardian and confidential contacts

The role of the Freedom to Speak up Guardian (FTSUG) and the confidential contacts is to make it possible for any of the Trust’s 22,000 staff to raise concerns about patient care or about their own lives at work, without fear of punishment. 

Most concerns can be raised in the first instance with the individual(s) responsible for you at work – generally your line manager. You can also approach your divisional director, union representative, or Human Resources team. However, there may be occasions when you feel unable to discuss your concerns with any of these, and in these circumstances you can turn to the FTSUG.

The Freedom to Speak up Guardian and confidential contacts provide a completely confidential service which includes meeting one-to-one (or speaking on the phone if preferred) and listening to your concerns. They can then offer immediate advice or, for more complex matters, summarise the issues raised in a short report for you to revise and correct. The report is confidential, and by default is non-attributable; your name or identifiers will not be included unless you are happy for them to be.

It may be easier to achieve resolution of a problem if you allow us to reveal your identity, but we do not do that without your express permission, and we always take steps to protect you.

With your approval, we take issues to the most appropriate individual in the management chain – the person most likely to be able to generate an informed response and an effective solution. This could be the team manager, the Clinical Service Lead, the Divisional Director, or the Chief Executive. If your concern relates to someone in your line management, we approach the person higher up in the hierarchy. We follow up matters to their conclusion, and ask you to provide anonymous feedback on your experience of the speaking up process.

By doing this we help the Trust to transform your concerns into organisational reflective learning.

Every problem becomes an opportunity for all of us to do things better.

Meet UHB’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and deputies

Professor Julian Bion

Freedom to Speak up Guardian

Nayab Hanif

Deputy Freedom to Speak up Guardian, Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy Pharmacist

David White

Deputy Freedom to Speak up Guardian, Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine

Being able to help staff with concerns or difficulties which are affecting their lives is of great importance to us and to our team of confidential contacts and champions. By contributing to the Trust’s development as a reflective learning organisation, we will improve staff well-being, patient safety, and quality of care.

We want all members of staff to feel able to raise concerns with their line managers and through "normal channels", but there are times when this may be difficult. The Freedom to Speak Up team has been established to help staff in those circumstances. We offer a completely confidential service to help you raise concerns and ensure that they are addressed constructively, to maintain our high standards of care.

Contact details

Information on how to contact Julian and the team is available on the Trust intranet.

Last reviewed: 14 March 2023