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New appointment helps staff speak up freely

​A new kind of guardian responsible for helping members of staff to raise any concerns about patient safety with the ultimate aim of further improving care has been permanently appointed at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

Liz Keay has become the Trust’s Putting People First Guardian. It comes after she fulfilled the role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardian during a successful six-month trial.

Liz works independently and provides confidential advice and support to any member of staff who raises a concern while escalating cases to the right level so that they can be resolved efficiently. She will report any themes or learning back to the Board, while promoting a culture of listening across the Trust which encourages staff to speak out safely.

Liz’s role builds on the strong foundations already in place at NSFT, which has had a whistleblowing policy in place for several years to encourage openness and transparency.

“I really enjoyed fulfilling the role during the pilot,” said Liz, who is also part of the team responsible for embedding the Trust’s values across the organisaton. “Feedback has been very positive and people have welcomed the idea. I’ve received some nice emails letting me know that changes have been made as a result of my input, which is very rewarding.

“I dealt with around 18 cases during the pilot. Some people just want to chat through an issue with someone independent and will then deal with it themselves, while others may need an investigation setting up to look at the concern in more detail.

“A lot of the role focuses on building good relationships with people, which links closely to the work I do around the Trust’s values.

“People can get in touch by calling or emailing, and we also offer staff the chance to leave anonymous messages if they would prefer. We want people to feel confident and comfortable reporting any concerns they may have so that we can work together to provide better services, and ultimately better care for our service users and patients.”

Freedom to Speak Up Guardians have been introduced nationwide following Sir Robert Francis QC’s report into whistleblowing in the NHS, which examined the causes of the failings in care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.