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The What's Up About Speaking UP

by Kara Mallonga

Adjusting to being a health professional in the UK can indeed pose challenges, particularly for someone coming from a culture where speaking up is not considered the norm. In the Philippines, there is often a tendency to avoid confrontation and defer to authority figures. However, in the UK healthcare system, effective communication and advocacy for patient safety are essential components of our clinical practice. This shift in mindset may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is essential to recognise that speaking up is not only acceptable but necessary for providing high-quality patient care. To help you in your journey, you can rely on various support systems within UK healthcare organisations:

1.Practice Educators and Preceptorship Team

Practice Educators and Preceptorship Team offers invaluable support to healthcare professionals recruited from overseas. They provide guidance, feedback and resources to facilitate learning and professional development to ensure high quality of patient care. They serve as mentors and allies, helping you navigate challenges, equipping you with skills and knowledge, advocating for your rights and the welfare of patients.

2. Professional Nurse and Midwifery Advocates

Formally trained nurses and midwives in the practice of restorative clinical supervision provide a safe space for nurses and midwives to express their worries, fears and concerns confidentially. You may approach them to request for a session. They can also provide personal development support for revalidation and helping you explore possible career pathways, manage stress better and prevent burnout.

3. Occupational Health and Pastoral Care Teams

These teams offer support services to address the physical and mental health needs of healthcare professionals. Healthcare workers experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, or burnout, especially during the colder months, can greatly benefit from accessing staff support resources like coaching and counseling services provided by your respective organisations. Taking care of one’s physical and mental well-being is essential for maintaining overall health and effectiveness in the workplace. Some Trusts have Pastoral Care Teams that can even help secure accommodation and whatever is needed to ensure ease of adjustment to life in the United Kingdom.

4. Staff Network Support Groups

Staff Network Support Groups can be an effective means to seek support from our colleagues and peers. They offer a supportive environment where healthcare workers can connect with others who understand the challenges they face. These groups, like the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff network support groups within certain NHS Trusts and organisations, provide a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and fostering camaraderie. Building relationships with colleagues who share similar experiences can provide invaluable emotional support and a sense of community.

5. Trade Unions

Trade Unions play a crucial role in supporting Filipino UK Healthcare Workers. Organisations like the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UNISON, British Medical Association (BMA), Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), Society of Radiographers (SoR), Unite Trade Union, and GMB Union represent the interests of healthcare professionals, advocating for fair working conditions, wages, and benefits.

Joining a union provides you with access to legal advice, representation, and collective bargaining power. They offer support and guidance on workplace issues, including grievances and disciplinary matters, and negotiations with employers. As a migrant, becoming a member of a trade union can provide you a form of reassurance that your rights are protected while allowing you to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system with confidence and assertiveness and that your concerns will be addressed within the broader framework of healthcare advocacy in the United Kingdom.

6. Freedom to Speak Up Leads/Guardians/Champions or Whistleblowing Leads/Champions

When feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about how to proceed, it's crucial to be aware of formal channels for seeking assistance. The Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) or Whistleblowing Teams within NHS Trusts and organisations are dedicated to ensuring a safe and supportive working environment for all staff members. This independent and confidential platform provides a safe space to raise concerns, especially in cases where there may be hesitation to do so openly because of feelings of fear and intimidation. It allows for the confidential and anonymous reporting of professional concerns within certain Trusts or organisations.

Reaching out to the FTSU team is not to be mistaken as an instant fix, as it still involves adhering to established organisational policies and procedures. They offer individualised guidance and support, providing direct access to senior leaders and ensuring that raised concerns are acknowledged, investigated, and addressed fairly and systematically, in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the National Health Service (NHS) and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Whistleblowing or Speaking Up policies differ not only among organisations but also across regions, with variations between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you are unsure about the specific policies in your area or need guidance on how to best raise your concern, consider seeking advice from charity organisations like Speak-Up Direct or Protect.

7. Diaspora Organisations

Filipino Healthcare Workers can find support and guidance through diaspora organisations such as the Filipino Nurses Association of the United Kingdom (FNA-UK), Philippines Nurses Association of the UK (PNA-UK), and Filipino UK Nurses Community (FUKN). Although most of the support provided by these diasporas is geared towards Filipino UK nurses, these organisations can also serve as valuable networks where Filipino Healthcare Workers can connect with others who share similar backgrounds and experiences. They provide an additional layer of support outside the workplace, addressing broader cultural and community-specific needs, and additional opportunities for professional development, networking, and advocacy tailored to the needs of Overseas Filipino Healthcare Professionals.

In conclusion, the key to navigating this transition to being empowered to openly raise professional issues and concerns within the UK healthcare system requires support, guidance, and the willingness to adapt. By accessing these resources, Filipino UK healthcare workers can navigate challenges effectively, advocate for our rights, and ensure the best quality of care for our patients, looking towards a future where we are able to successfully thrive and continuously contribute positively to the healthcare community in a place that is now considered as our home, the United Kingdom.

About the author.

Kara Mallonga embarked on her UK journey as an overseas NHS nurse recruited from the Philippines. She was blessed to swiftly advanced within the ranks, by earning a promotion from Band 5 to 7 in two years time as the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian of her NHS Trust.

In addition to her healthcare adventures, Kara has been heavily involved in the sports industry, contributing as a Martial Arts practitioner, MMA promoter, judge, matchmaker and a CoVid-19 pandemic sports safety consultant. As a single mother, she has mastered the art of resilience, deftly balancing the demands of her career and family life.

Guided by her Christian faith, she is committed to approaching her endeavours with kindness and compassion. A fervent advocate for women's empowerment, Kara is dedicated to fostering inclusivity and equality across all domains.


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