"The best thing for me about working for the NHS is that I really like to try and help people when they notice something is not right at work and they need the support of someone to help them speak up."
Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of all the people we provide care, so how do you make sure – and encourage – staff to raise any concerns that they have in a safe and confidential way?
Lynn Richardson is our Freedom to Speak Up Guardian – someone staff can go to in confidence to report worries or concerns.
Lynn has worked in the NHS since 1976. Here’s her story:
“I first developed an interest in human biology when I was at school and it was a subject I did well in. As I came to making the decision about what to do next, I thought I would enjoy a role that would always keep me in work but combined my interest in human biology so I decided to be a medical secretary!
"Back in 1976 when I joined Portsmouth Hospitals, the NHS felt very different – much less a business concerned with balancing its budgets and much more friendly an atmosphere in which to care for people. There was such a lot of waste though!
“I remained as a medical secretary for six years but by then I had married and moved to Brighton. In those days, young people couldn’t afford to buy a house so money became more important to pay the mortgage. I became PA to the Chairman and Chief Executive of Mid-Downs Health Authority. It was in that role that I had my first child, my son, and that was when I experienced being told I could not return to this role after having a baby. Instead they offered me a part-time role in HR with a significant demotion in job banding… I know that wouldn’t happen today!
“I started as a Band 3 contracts clerk, drafting up the new contracts of employment. I really got into the HR role and loved going out and about to meet students and encourage them to join the NHS. After I had had my daughter two years later, I was offered the chance to study at Brighton University and undertake my CIPD qualification – that was back in 1991.
“After qualifying in 1994, I moved to be a Medical Staffing Officer at East Grinstead and then an HR Business Partner at Mid-Sussex Hospital in Haywards Heath. That Trust was later to merge with Brighton to become the Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust we still know today. From there, I became Deputy Director of HR at Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust and then HR Director at Surrey and Borders Partnership in 2010. I resigned from my post on 31 March 2017 to take me to present day where I started as the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian with both Surrey and Borders and Sussex Partnership from 1 April 2017.
“I have always tried to be very honest with people – even if I had to tell someone that I did not believe their account of events. In a strange way, I think being honest within an HR role brings respect and I can recall many times when employees might ring me and say ‘Lynn what really is going on here – I’d rather know the truth and I know you will tell that to me'.
“One particular story that always makes our friends laugh is when an operating department practitioner was due to work all over Christmas but rang in sick on Boxing Day causing no end of difficulty and expense to cover the theatre on a bank holiday. A few weeks later I was made aware by a member that the gentleman had been playing football on the Boxing Day because a photograph was published in the local paper showing him scoring the winning goal . Several meetings with myself, the gentleman and his rep later - when he had denied being that person in the paper and after I had interviewed the referee to ask him to describe the goal scorer, he resigned and we recovered the sick pay paid to him. I felt justice was done for the poor staff member who came in to cover his shift on Boxing Day!
"The best thing for me about working for the NHS is that I really like to try and help people when they notice something is not right at work and they need the support of someone to help them speak up. I really enjoy being invited to speak with the employee and management teams around the Trust to be sure everyone knows how important it is to speak up but also how they don’t need to do this on their own.
"The NHS is a really different NHS today but I think it still delivers excellent care. I am so amazed by the technology of MRI scanning and the impact this has had on the treatment of prostate cancer which is something I have personal involvement with. I have run half marathons for Prostate Cancer UK over the years.
"Although the NHS has become such a political tool over the last 20+ years, what I love is that this is all forgotten when you are the patient and the nurse, therapist or doctor is supporting you with care. I would still maintain that it is an excellent service to the people of this country, even if private treatment can be quicker.
"To anyone thinking about working for the NHS, I would say, Come On Down! The NHS really needs people who care about what they do. It will be a very rewarding job with so much choice to change roles, gain promotion and enjoy your work.
"I have had a great career in the NHS and when I retire on 31 May 2018 I hope someone will offer me employment to stay on! I would really miss not working in the NHS.