The largest hospital trust in England has begun using an online system that encourages staff to discuss concerns and ideas directly and anonymouslywith senior managers.
Barts Health NHS Trust launched the SpeakInConfidence system at the end of March to enable staff to have a private dialogue with a senior executive about issues they feel unable to raise with their line manager.
“The conversation is anonymous and controlled on the terms of staff, always”
As well as concerns, the trust hopes the system will also allow ideas to be shared on improving working conditions, clinical care and safety, and use of financial resources.
The Care Quality Commission recently raised concerns about bullying and harassment at the trust following visits made under its new inspection regime last year.
Barts acknowledged that the introduction of SpeakInConfidence was largely a response to the CQC’s findings, adding that the system also built on its previous efforts to encourage whistleblowing.
Trust chief nurse Kay Riley said: “We are keen to show our staff our commitment to improving and resolving any issues they raise and to provide absolute assurance that although we want them to speak to us their identity will be protected if they wish to remain anonymous.
“With our previous ‘whistleblowing’ support line, people told us that they didn’t feel that it was a truly anonymous way to raise concerns and they were fearful of what would happen if they spoke out,” she told Nursing Times.
The trust said that in the first two weeks of operation, almost 20 people had raised concerns through the system – ranging from seeking support about bullying to ensuring they received their full annual leave entitlement.
Staff register with the service through an online application – run by a third party organisation – and can then begin sending anonymous messages to their choice of one of 10 trust executives. The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Simulating direct conversation, messages appear on the screen through a series of speech bubbles and the conversation is controlled by the staff member, not the executive, according to the trust.
Ms Riley said: “The conversation is anonymous and controlled on the terms of staff, always.”
Nursing Times launched the Speak Out Safely campaign in March last year, with the aim of encouraging healthcare providers to develop cultures that actively encourage staff to raise the alarm when they see poor practice and to protect them when they do so.