Speaking up

C. How to speak up

31. If you cannot resolve the issue yourself, then you will need to speak up about it to the person or organisation with authority to take action. There are two steps to consider:

  • dealing with the issue at a local level, for example, with the colleague concerned, your line manager and/or senior management, or raising the matter with another organisation where the concern arises, for example, a care home that you may visit as part of your work (see section C1 for more information); or
  • if you are unable to resolve the issue, or if the issue is so serious as to merit immediate referral, you should consider escalating your concerns to a speaking up guardian within your organisation, local optical committee or employer, speaking to someone within your local NHS trust, or a prescribed person or organisation (including the GOC and/or the police) (see section C2 for more information).

32. You should always use appropriate channels to speak up. You should document your concerns and any actions that you have taken to resolve them, including a summary of any conversations you have had.

C1. Dealing with the issue at a local level

33. Often, issues can be resolved most easily at a local level, where the issue is coming from. In the majority of cases arising in optical practice, your employer[5] will be the starting point for speaking up about your concerns, although if you have concerns about the behaviour or conduct of another person, consider whether it may be appropriate for you to approach them directly about the issue first.

34. Your employer should have processes and policies in place for you to follow when speaking up and if they do, you should follow these wherever possible. These policies may be titled ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘raising concerns’ instead of ‘speaking up’. If you think the processes your employer has in place are unfair or an unnecessary barrier to speaking up, seek independent advice from one of the sources listed in section G.

35. In the absence of such processes or if they are not clear, it is often a good idea to speak up locally so that things can be resolved as efficiently as possible, so if you are able to, your line manager is likely to be the best person to speak up to.

36. If it is not appropriate for you to speak to your line manager for whatever reason (for example, if the issue you’re concerned about involves them or their behaviour), or if your concerns remain unresolved and patient/public safety is or may still be at risk, then you may need to speak to another more senior manager, such as an area manager or practice owner.

37. If you are unable to speak up to either your line manager or another senior manager, or you do so but your concerns remain unresolved and patient/public safety is or may still be at risk, then you should speak up to the most senior persons in your organisation. This may be the Chief Executive or a member of the senior management team.

38. If your concerns do not involve your employer, for example, if they are related to working in another environment such as a care home, you should raise your concerns with the most appropriate person in that organisation. It may also be appropriate to advise your employer so that they are aware of the situation and may be able to provide you with support in resolving it.

39. Speaking up using the channels set out above relies on you identifying yourself and your concerns to those responsible. You can speak up anonymously, but it may then be difficult to claim any legal protection under the public interest disclosure legislation (see section D).

40. If your concerns remain unresolved after following the steps set out above, or if your concerns relate to a risk of very serious harm or death, then you should escalate your concern.

[5] If you are a sole trader, in a partnership, or working in any other context other than as an employee, references to ‘employer’ in this guidance equally applies to healthcare and education providers, hospitals and NHS commissioners.

C2. Escalating your concerns

41. If you have not been able to resolve your concerns, you should consider how to escalate them. This might involve contacting a speaking up guardian within your organisation, local optical committee or employer, or speaking to someone within your local NHS trust. It might also involve contacting a ‘prescribed person/organisation’ (see next paragraph). If you need help thinking about which organisation to speak up to, you may wish to seek advice from your professional or representative body, or trade union.

42. You should speak up to an appropriate organisation that is in a position to put matters right. In the UK, such organisations are called ‘prescribed persons/organisations’ and the Government provides a list of them, along with a brief description of what matters can be reported to them. Section D ‘Protected disclosures’ contains information about the principle of a public interest disclosure and your rights if you do so.

43. Professional regulators are considered to be ‘prescribed persons/organisations’ and as such, it may be appropriate for you to speak up about your concerns to the GOC. This is particularly the case where the risk to patient/public safety is posed or aggravated by the conduct of a registrant (individual or business). More information on how to do this is in section D of this document.

44. Another option that may be open to you is speaking to the police, for example, if you suspect criminal conduct.

45. You may be tempted to ‘go public’ with your concerns, but this is rarely, if ever, appropriate. By ‘go public’ we mean sharing concerns publicly (usually anonymously), including in the press or on social media platforms. This may not result in any action to protect the public and may negatively affect the public perception of the professionalism of the optical professions. In addition, an individual sharing concerns publicly would not be afforded ‘protected disclosure’ status.