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Prestigious award win for Northumbria Healthcare’s open culture for concerns

Tuesday, 30 November, 2021
Prestigious award win for Northumbria Healthcare’s open culture for concerns

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is leading the way nationally with its support network for staff to raise concerns that could impact on patient safety and care.

At the prestigious HSJ (Health Service Journal) Awards 2021, the Trust collected the top prize in the Freedom to Speak up Organisation of the Year category, reflecting the supportive system and open, transparent culture in place at the organisation. The award was presented by Sir Robert Francis, who led the national Freedom to Speak Up review.

Staff at Northumbria Healthcare are fully committed to providing outstanding care to patients in Northumberland and North Tyneside, and a key factor in maintaining this standard is the ability for potential issues to be raised and addressed in a timely manner, with staff supported and advised to speak up, listen up and follow up.

Every NHS trust in England has a Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardian, whose role is to protect patient safety and the quality of care, improve the experience of workers, and promote learning and improvement.

Kirsty Dickson, who has been Northumbria Healthcare’s FTSU guardian since October 2016, said: “I feel privileged to have been appointed by Northumbria as one of the early FTSU guardians.

“The direction of the journey felt quite unknown five years ago, but by listening to the many staff at Northumbria speaking up, and through observation, understanding, support from the National Guardian’s Office and regional and national networking, the foundation was laid for the embedding of speaking up.

“I was thrilled to collect this award as a symbol of the achievement of all the staff involved in Northumbria Healthcare’s FTSU journey and I am very pleased that they have been represented and recognised. Thank you.

“At the end of the day, this is all about maintaining and improving a high quality of patient care for our communities, which is at the heart of everything we do at Northumbria Healthcare.”

At this year’s HSJ Awards, the category was extremely competitive with Freedom to Speak Up – The Northumbria Way coming out on top from a shortlist featuring Chesterfield Royal Hospital FT, which was highly commended, plus seven other finalists from all parts of the country, including regional colleagues at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Northumbria Way, as set out in the award entry, is based on organisation-wide commitment to continuous learning, firm support from senior leadership, and Kirsty’s innovations, including creating a team of ‘shapers’ and champions plus an emphasis on social media when the Covid-19 pandemic limited face-to-face contact.

The award citation said: ‘The judges felt that a mature and thoroughly embedded approach to speaking up was demonstrated. The passion and hard work of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian shone through and was brought together with well-established processes, networks, and support that enabled the organisation to demonstrate that speaking up is at the heart of everything it does. This entry demonstrated warmth, an understanding of its people and real purpose behind all of its speaking up activity.’

Despite the demanding circumstances of the past 18 months, more than 1,000 entries were received for this year’s HSJ Awards, with 205 organisations, projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist. The awards ceremony took place in London on Thursday, November 18.

Pictured above, collecting the award from host Sue Perkins and Sir Robert Francis on behalf of Northumbria Healthcare are FTSU guardian Kirsty Dickson, non-executive director Andrew Besford, incident and reporting manager Sharon Skee-Harrison, clinical audit facilitator Jordan Thompson and nurse Sarah Sandison.

You can read more about Northumbria Healthcare’s Freedom to Speak Up model in the case study here.


Media contact

Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer

Benjamin.O’Connell@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.ukor 07833 046680.


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