Twelve months on as a Freedom to Speak Up guardian

Wayne walker blog picture

Wayne Walker, Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) guardian and multi-skilled technician at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, describes his experience as one of nine guardians in the trust.  This is the fourth in a series of blogs by Wayne.

Twelve months is a long time, but this year has passed in a flash. Is that good? In many ways, yes. It’s been a turning point in my life, carrying out a role I’m passionate and privileged to fulfil, and one that is starting to feel like a vocation. What I have now, twelve months on, is still a passion, but also the experience to go with it. 

Before starting my role as Freedom to Speak Up guardian, I had heard of the mid-Staffordshire report by Sir Robert Francis and the issues encountered at Morecambe Bay. I was sad to learn that an institution like the NHS had issues such as a lack of being open and transparent, which has compromised patient safety. I was and am determined to make a difference. 

Our first meeting as trust guardians in February 2015 was designed to let us get to know one another. We have nine guardians at Torbay and we all undertake different roles within the organisation including consultant, nurse, multi skilled technician and radiologist. While we all have different clinical skills, we all have a common purpose in encouraging staff to speak up about public interest concerns and support both staff and managers where concerns are not effectively dealt with. From the onset, we’ve had a secure database to capture raising concerns data, along with a number of promotional posters to display across the trust. We’ve attended regular local meetings, along with regional and national events and guardian training. We have raised awareness of our function among staff through over 60 presentations, walkabouts, displaying posters, publishing blogs and by being as visible to staff and managers as possible. 

In an ideal world, we would not be needed at all, given managers and organisations have a role to ensure concerns are dealt with effectively. What I’m seeing now is that time and time again, its us guardians that are the safety net for individuals whose public interest concerns are not heard or dealt with.

Emotionally charged meetings with staff are common, and I didn’t really envisage this at the outset, nor was I prepared. If you consider someone having followed trust policies and procedures correctly and their issues not being resolved, you can appreciate how they feel frustrated, disillusioned and upset.

Being part of something you believe in becomes part of your life and passion. Being part of this new structure alone, to benefit hopefully some of the 1.3 million staff in the NHS, patients and their families is a privilege.

Our next national National Guardian’s Office conference is in March and I look forward to meeting new guardians and sharing our local experiences as we continue to grow into our roles over the next twelve months.

My goal is a simple one - to make sure staff feel free to speak up about patient safety and effectiveness of the service so we can provide safe and compassionate patient-centered care. And the people who can make that work? You, the 1.3 million staff and managers in the NHS.

If you have any issues please contact myself or the National Guardian’s Office.

LinkedIn: Wayne Walker OR join the Freedom to Speak up Group
Twitter: @waneanthony
E- mail:

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