Being a CSP steward and a former whistleblower helped Phillip Gordon get to grips with being an NHS Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.
Free to speak up
What is the guardian’s role?
I provide independent, confidential advice to staff and managers on any aspect of raising and dealing with concerns about safety, malpractice or wrongdoing. I also work with senior management to identify trends, and recommend ways to improve the culture, processes and governance around raising concerns at work. I don’t complete investigations or deal with employment issues, but I can point people in the right direction in these cases. The role is a national requirement for acute trusts. I have direct access to the chief executive, and I am part of a national network that sits under the Care Quality Commission.
Tell us more about what you do
I am in the unique position of having stand-alone posts in two separate trusts: Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Trust. I work two days a week in each, but am available across the organisations. It challenges my organisational skills, and opens up a lot of opportunities to maximise productivity and shared learning.
I am still new to the role and have started from the ground up. I am reviewing the policies and creating a range of resources for guidance. I have introduced myself to most senior managers and the role has been heavily promoted in both trusts. I am gradually meeting more and more frontline staff, and the role will become more established as concerns come my way. As a result, I am forming a wide perspective on each organisation, and using that to recommend improvements.
What is it about your career made you apply?
I have worked as a physio for seven years across many trusts and clinical areas. I have also completed some postgraduate academic work looking into the barriers people face when raising concerns in the NHS. Most importantly, I have personally ‘blown the whistle’ in two previous roles. I took that step after I became concerned about the welfare of patients and the standard of care they were receiving. I know how it feels to have a serious concern, and how daunting and isolating it can be if you are considering raising it. When it goes right, I have seen how the comments of just one person can lead to profound and lasting improvements.
How did being a CSP steward prepare you for the role?
Dealing with disciplinaries and grievances teaches you how to handle conflict situations. I had to become very good at managing my time flexibly and responsively. In a previous role, I was heavily involved in a large consultation, which proposed the removal of band 7 physios from intensive care, stroke and neuro-rehabilitation. CSP members voiced their concerns and put forward alternative proposals that demonstrated better quality, safety and cost-effectiveness, which were universally adopted by management. I also introduced trust-wide compensatory rest arrangements to minimise the likelihood of fatigue-related incidents. I now sit on the CSP’s industrial relations committee.
All these experiences have taught me how to be a critical friend to management, yet work positively and constructively to get things done. My role is an example of the unexpected places that physiotherapy can take you.
How are you supported at work?
The role requires a lot of resilience, but so does being a clinician or a CSP steward in the NHS. There are many places I can go to for support including my line manager, the chief executive, or a board member/non-executive director. I also have access to other Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, and am supported by the National Guardian Office.
How do you unwind outside the workplace?
I try to keep my work and personal life separate. My main hobbies are eating cake, indoor bouldering and playing the piano – ideally not in that order! fl
- Phillip Gordon is the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Stockport NHS Trust and Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Trust
AuthorPhillip Gordon is the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Stockport NHS Trust and Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Trust
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