Can you have your say? - Freedom of speech | QCS

Can you have your say? – Freedom of speech

January 28, 2016

MegaphoneFreedom of speech

We all know about the recent junior doctors’ protests and I’m not going to discuss it in this blog, but it has highlighted the issue about speaking up for what you believe is right or wrong. Freedom of speech is the ‘right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship’. Freedom of speech is understood to be fundamental in a democracy and by communicating, an individual forms relationships and associations with others such as family, friends, co-workers, organisations, etc.

Open discussion

As individuals in healthcare we have various ways in which we can speak up and discuss our ideas and raise concerns. We can highlight good working and raise issues during appraisal, we should have the opportunity to discuss things openly during regular practice meetings, and of course we can raise serious concerns through whistleblowing.

Patient feedback

Patients also have a right to say how they feel. They can make a complaint, make comments and suggestions, and give positive feedback through various means including the complaints procedure, NHS Choices feedback and the Friends and Family Test. Patient Participation Groups are another useful way to get valuable feedback about the practice and services and we can use this forum to inform patients directly and get support when necessary.

Zero tolerance

Whilst constructive feedback should be embraced it is not a right to offend someone when giving an opinion. No matter how frustrated someone becomes both staff and patients should be reminded that offensive comments and abusive behaviour are not welcome and if a situation escalates and becomes out of hand then zero tolerance needs to be implemented swiftly.

Speak Out Safely (SOS)

We are aware that some staff are unwilling to speak up about poor care for fear of reprisal. During a hearing on raising concerns in the NHS Ms Donnelly, a nurse practitioner at Staffordshire and Stoke Partnership Trust, told the committee, “There is greater awareness now in terms of raising concerns and perhaps staff understanding their responsibility to do so. But understanding that and actually doing it are two very different things, and that’s the bridge we need to make.” We should have a culture where staff are encouraged and supported to speak out. If this is not happening where you work then be an ambassador for cultural change in your organisation. I am sure colleagues would be pleased to count on your support.

The Nursing Times has a Speak Out Safely (SOS) campaign which aims to encourage NHS organisations and independent healthcare providers to develop cultures that are honest and transparent, to actively encourage staff to raise the alarm when they see poor practice, and to protect them when they do so.


Nursing times:

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Alison Lowerson

GP Specialist


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