Cygnet’s Freedom To Speak Up Celebration Day

Cygnet staff at the Freedom to Speak Up event

To mark the sixth Annual Speak Up Month, Cygnet Group held a celebration day to recognise the contribution of the organisation’s almost 200 Freedom To Speak Up Ambassadors, volunteers across Health and Social Care services, who champion the message of Speaking Up being business as usual at Cygnet.

Cygnet Non Executive Director Sian Jarvis CB chaired the event which was attended by an audience of Ambassadors and colleagues in Birmingham.

Cygnet Group CEO Dr Tony Romero

Opening the celebration, Group CEO Dr Tony Romero welcomed and thanked the Ambassadors and said they contribute to the happiness of their colleagues and service users because: “They know they can speak up without consequences, because this is a safe place, a fair place. If you do the right thing, we will listen to you and act upon it.”

He added: “For all the time you have dedicated, for the courage and bravery to sit down with colleagues, listen to their concerns and then take action, I want to say thank you on behalf of the Board of Cygnet, thank you for your contribution.”

Cygnet's FTSU Guardian Agnes Tutani

Cygnet’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian Agnes Tutani reflected on the journey Cygnet has gone through since July 2020 when Freedom to Speak Up was launched at Cygnet. Today there are 196 Ambassadors across the country, 80% of whom will have attended Masterclass training by the end of the year, demonstrating Cygnet’s commitment to embedding Speaking Up in Cygnet’s culture. Agnes acknowledged that the ways people raise concerns has changed, with a “growing confidence,” leading colleagues speaking up face to face, as well as using anonymous internal channels including the amber button on the staff intranet and the whistleblowing helpline.

She added: “Something for us to be proud of is that 96% of colleagues who took part in our staff survey acknowledged that if they had a concern about malpractice, fraud or wrongdoing they would know how to report it.

“For us, it has been a priority to ensure that people felt safe and comfortable speaking up, and that has brought together a more positive culture within the organisation not just at a senior level, but throughout our services. It’s helped deal with concerns internally and given that confidence to staff teams knowing that whatever they want to bring forward is being taken seriously.

“The theme of Speak Up Month is how we break down barriers and we have really started tackling that within the Freedom to Speak Up Network, so I thank our Ambassadors for that. It’s support for staff to have a voice to make a difference, and it gives us the opportunity to improve the experience not only for the amazing staff that we have at Cygnet, but for our patients and residents that we are entrusted to support. Together we are making a difference.”

FTSU Ambassador Jayne Rowlands

FTSU Ambassador Jayne Rowlands is the manager of Excel & Exceed, the school based within Cygnet Hospital Bury which serves four Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services wards. She spoke about why she chose to be an Ambassador. Jayne said: “For me it was about doing something that could make a difference and drive change.

“From my perspective it is about saying there is a point, and change is driven from the bottom up. Being an Ambassador meant I would be able to get the message out there that it is a positive not a negative; that it is safe and non-judgemental and ultimately it is for the greater good for service users and for employees.”

Representing the National Guardian Office, Katherine Bradshaw shared that 69% of Guardians say that fear of detriment is one of the main barriers to speaking up and 58% said feeling that nothing will be done is the other reason. She discussed “The silence of missing voices that costs careers, relationships and lives.” And said when things go wrong it’s vital to make sure that lessons are learnt and things are improved: “If we think something might go wrong, it’s important that we all feel able to speak up so that potential harm is prevented.”

Dr Joe Farmer

Keynote speaker Dr Joe Farmer, co-founder of Civility Saves Lives discussed the power of teamwork leading to better outcomes for service users, and rudeness impacting negatively on the ability of people to perform well in their job. Addressing Barriers to Speaking Up, he observed that rudeness in the workplace leads to an unwillingness to speak up. He said: “We need to address this environment and make sure the environment we work in isn’t a permissive environment and we don’t create barriers and prevent people wanting or feeling able to speak up.”

Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer for the Behavioural Health Division of Cygnet’s parent company UHS, Karen Johnson, joined the event from her base in Chicago and acknowledged the vital contribution of Cygnet’s Ambassadors to driving positive change at Cygnet. She quoted Alan B Miller, founder of UHS and said that “Doing the right thing is really about doing it when nobody is watching,” and emphasised the focus on delivering care that is delivered with passion, dignity and respect.

Reflecting on the day, Cygnet Board Secretary Pam Wenger said: “Today was truly an inspirational day as we held our first Freedom to Speak Up Conference. It was a great opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the work the Ambassadors have done, day in, day out. This work really does make a difference in terms of improving culture at Cygnet.”

Nayma Ali with Pam Wenger

All the Freedom to Speak Ambassadors received certificates of appreciation and specially commissioned pin badges to thank them for their contribution to raising awareness of speaking up.

Nayma Ali is a Freedom to Speak Up Ambassador at Broughton Lodge where she works as a House Manager. She said: “Today has been very insightful. I became a Freedom To Speak Up Ambassador earlier this year and it’s been an amazing journey. The Masterclass was eye-opening, very educational and today has reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing, and why I’m still with Cygnet. I know Freedom To Speak Up was first established by the NHS but I feel that Cygnet has taken it to another level, and I look forward to going back to my service and sharing everything I’ve learnt today.”

Agnes Tutani said: “A highlight for me was when we looked at civility in the workplace and the reflections and open discussion it enabled. People were really engaged and wanted to explore how we can tackle rudeness in the workplace, peer-to–peer; how we can positively challenge each other and work towards having a psychologically safe environment to have difficult conversations . Everyone left with a smile on their face, talking about looking forward to next year.”

To find out more about Freedom To Speak Up please visit the National Guardian Office website.

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