Abstract: Inquiries, academic work and expert group reports on problems in the quality of care in the NHS and other healthcare systems have identified shortcomings in ‘openness’—that is, the extent to which organisations enable concerns to be raised and disclosed freely without fear—as critical to the incubation of failings in quality and safety. In response, the NHS in England has developed policy initiatives that seek to improve openness, including a statutory duty of candour when care processes give rise to harm, the introduction of ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ to facilitate staff voice about concerns, and changes to various processes, including the way serious incidents are investigated. The evidence base for many of these changes, however, is uncertain, and their impact on the quality of care unevaluated.
This paper discusses emergent findings from an ongoing evaluation of various openness initiatives in the NHS, focusing in particular on an interview-based sub-study of senior stakeholder views on the implementation and impact of these initiatives. It highlights some of the challenges involved in achieving greater openness given past experiences and deep-rooted beliefs about the (at best ambivalent, and often negative) consequences of being open, the difficulties involved in diagnosing opacity and fostering openness, and the approaches taken by senior clinicians and managers to translating policy into practice. It relates findings to current policy and wider evidence and theory on interventions to facilitate employee voice and achieve culture change.
Biography: Graham Martin is Director of Research for THIS Institute, a new unit funded by the Health Foundation at the University of Cambridge to develop the evidence base for and impact of work to improve healthcare quality and safety, and Professor of Health Organisation and Policy in the SAPPHIRE Group, University of Leicester. His research focuses on social, organisational and professional issues in healthcare system change, with a particular focus on quality improvement work and policy initiatives to address quality, safety and risk in the NHS.