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NHS trust’s system for staff to raise concerns sparks prestigious awards nomination

Tuesday, 24 August, 2021
NHS trust’s system for staff to raise concerns sparks prestigious awards nomination

The open culture for staff at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to raise concerns and ensure patient safety has been nominated for a top national award.

The Trust, which runs hospitals and community services in Northumberland and North Tyneside, has been shortlisted in the Freedom to Speak up Organisation of the Year category at the HSJ (Health Service Journal) Awards 2021.

Every NHS trust in England has a Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardian, whose role is to support staff in raising genuine concerns about their work. They are completely independent and governed by the Care Quality Commission.

Kirsty Dickson, pictured, has been Northumbria Healthcare’s FTSU guardian for almost five years now and is enthusiastic about the impact her role can have on patient safety and the quality of care they receive, as well as providing an impartial service to support staff.

“I’m delighted that Freedom to Speak Up – The Northumbria Way has been recognised in this way, as it’s something that I passionately believe really makes a difference to patient and staff experience,” she said.

“Last year, there were 193 speak-ups, an increase of about 30 on the previous year, and a good number of those concerns at least would not have been raised without our system in place, which staff are really positive about. Very few of these speak-ups were anonymous, far fewer than the national average, which reflects well on the open and transparent culture that exists within the Trust.

“During the pandemic, I have focused even more on alternative methods such as social media to ensure that staff remained confident that they could raise any issues.”

Despite the demanding circumstances of the past 18 months, more than 1,000 entries have been received for this year’s HSJ Awards, with 205 organisations, projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist. The volume and standards of applications has been a true testament to those health and social care staff, who continue to push outstanding work and transformational projects across the sector.

The judging panel was once again made up of a diverse range of highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community, including Sir Bruce Keogh (chair, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s FT); Marie Gabriel CBE (chair, NHS Race and Health Observatory); and former HSJ Trust of the Year winners Ann Marr OBE (chief executive, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust) and Richard Mitchell (chief executive, Sherwood Forest Hospitals FT).

HSJ editor Alistair McLellan said: “On behalf of all my colleagues, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Northumbria Healthcare on being nominated in the category of Freedom to Speak up Organisation of the Year in this year’s HSJ Awards. The applications we receive always present our panel of judges with a very difficult task as the standard is unfailingly high and the breadth of innovation and passion for patient care is always so inspiring.

“This year, we really have been overwhelmed with the level of entries, particularly when set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the huge challenges faced by our health and social care workforce.

“We are therefore looking forward to welcoming all our finalists to the live ceremony in November and joining us in celebrating their incredible achievements and commitment to excellence.”

The full list of nominees for the HSJ Awards 2021 can be found on and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday, November 18.

Media contacts

Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer, Northumbria Healthcare

Benjamin.O’ or 07833 046680.