The recently released Ockenden report highlighted a litany of issues surrounding the tragic and avoidable deaths of many children and women within maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

Whilst the report raises multiple failings, what is clear, is that fundamental issues were apparent and known by many, yet the governance around reporting concerns seriously failed. This involved individuals, both staff and patients not reporting concerns, or being in fear that they could not nor have the confidence to raise concerns or speak up.

There have been many cases surrounding maternity services, from the former North West London Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS FT, where lessons clearly haven’t resulted in reforms to prevent tragic events such as this happening.

More recently, there have been reports released by NHS England into reviews conducted regarding Speak Up matters which raised common themes that are occurring all too often and are all avoidable. Issues highlighted in the review at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust raised concerns regarding the handling of decisions made and investigations conducted into a Speak Up complaint. Furthermore matters highlighted within the report into The Christie NHS Foundation Trust also raised concerns surrounding the actions taken by management and the treatment of individuals who have raised concerns.

Almost all NHS Trusts have Freedom to Speak Up Guardians and Whistleblowing Policies; however, these are not routinely being tested for their effectiveness. Boards and Audit Committees should be doing more to seek assurances over the policies and procedures in place, and most importantly, whether the systems are working effectively, whether staff have the confidence to report concerns and the mechanisms in place that follow referral are robust, effective and drive changes.

Action Required

Audit Committees and Boards should be seeking assurance over their Speak Up arrangements in place, by testing the process, undertaking an organisation cultural and confidence check, to establish the temperature across their Trust to flag issues and raise confidence across the workforce in speaking up.

Should you wish to discuss how TIAA can support you in gaining assurance over your Speak Up arrangements and organisational culture and confidence, please do contact David Foley, Regional Managing Director, contact us