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Ashgate Hospice > Empowering Voices: The role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in hospice care

Our Head of Supportive Care, Arlene Honeyman and Head of Clinical Governance and Patient Safety, Lesley Makin are our Freedom to Speak Up Guardians at the hospice. Here they explain how they help our staff and volunteers speak up when they may feel that they are unable to do so.

We are committed to being the best we can be for our patients, our workforce and our supporters here at Ashgate. We want to create a future where everyone in North Derbyshire with a life-limiting illness can make the most of every moment and can die with dignity and comfort.

However, if we feel that something is not right, we should have the space to raise our concerns safely and have our voices heard.

As Freedom to Speak Up Guardians – this is where we come in. No matter how big or how small, we are there to support our workforce when raising a concern, whatever that concern might be.

We often help to navigate any barriers that a person feels is holding them back from speaking up and ensure that any issues raised are used as opportunities for learning and improvement.

We have been in our roles since 2018 when Ashgate became the first hospice in the UK to recruit Guardians. We have both been trained by the National Guardian’s Office and ultimately report and are accountable to them.

The role is a unique position and one we both feel very privileged to hold. It brings a strong sense of responsibility for ensuring we do all we can to support the hospice and our amazing staff and volunteers. For us it is about creating the best possible conditions for them to fulfill their roles. This ensures that patients, families, customers supporters and our workforce have the best experience of our services.

We have a range of experiences between us having come from different backgrounds. Yet the biggest things that unite us both are our passions for fairness, our belief in integrity, as well as our belief in people and doing the right thing.

As Guardians we meet regularly with our Chief Executive, Barbara-Anne Walker and Trustee, Vicky Webb who is the Freedom to Speak Up representative from the Ashgate Hospice Board. We discuss themes that may be visible from the concerns we hear, plans for promoting the service throughout the year and plans for how we might develop our support. We look forward to these meetings and consult those raising concerns first to ensure we are not misrepresenting them. We always keep identities confidential unless people give us permission to share.

The part of the role that we find most rewarding is when someone contacts us to ask for support. We have people coming to us with concerns that they don’t feel confident to tackle on their own. Sometimes they feel empowered to do this once we have spoken and know that we are there in the background should they need us. On other occasions, things have become more serious or embedded, and we take a more active role in supporting them at any stage through the journey towards resolution. We also check in with people after they have raised concerns and let them know they can come back to us at any time.

We are humbled by the conviction, bravery and energy that people bring; to see them journeying – often from a place of fear – to a place of strength and belief. Everyone has the right to raise their concerns and be treated fairly, listened to and action be taken.

One of the first questions we ask people is what they would like the outcome to be. And every time we ask this question, we are amazed at the wisdom people demonstrate and the capacity to think of the hospice. They often want an outcome that brings positive change to the situation they are dealing with and ensures no-one else experiences it.