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Exclusive: Second trust creates role to support staff raise concerns

Birmingham Children’s Hospital is to become the second NHS organisation to appoint an “ambassador for cultural change” to support staff in raising concerns, Nursing Times can reveal.

The specialist hospital said it planned to largely replicate the role pioneered by nurse practitioner Helene Donnelly at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust.

“The reason for raising concerns is to prevent harm and if harm has occurred to learn from it”

Helene Donnelly

Sarah-Jane Marsh, chief executive at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust, said she had been inspired to introduce the post after meeting Ms Donnelly, the former accident and emergency nurse who blew the whistle on care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

The Birmingham trust has already advertised the post internally and short-listed candidates. Ms Donnelly will be part of the interview panel and mentor the successful applicant.

She said she would be looking for a candidate with great communication skills, tenacity and the confidence to interact with staff throughout the organisation from ward to board.

“What I’m looking for is someone who has a genuine interest in not just patient safety but staff welfare, and who understands the important of staff raising concerns,” she said. “The reason for raising concerns is to prevent harm and if harm has occurred to learn from it.”

The interviews are due to take place on 30 June with the successful candidate expected to be in post by September.

The role will initially be part-time, although this will be reviewed. The post-holder will have monthly meetings with the chief executive and can raise concerns with her directly at any time.

“The most important thing for us is integrity,” said Ms Marsh. “We need to make sure we have somebody that can be very open, listen and facilitate – but also challenge and be able to stand up to me and tell me if I am wrong.”

Ms Donnelly, who has previously said she would like to see every trust employ an ambassador for cultural change, described Birmingham’s decision as “absolutely brilliant”.

“They are such a prominent trust so hopefully others will follow suit,” she told Nursing Times. “We’ve had a huge amount of interest in the role and had many people contact us for job descriptions and more details, but you do need somebody to take the plunge.”

Helen Donnelly

Helene Donnelly appears before the health select committee on 18 March 2014

Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    'The Birmingham trust has already advertised the post internally and short-listed candidates. Ms Donnelly will be part of the interview panel and mentor the successful applicant.

    She said she would be looking for a candidate with great communication skills, tenacity and the confidence to interact with staff throughout the organisation from ward to board.'

    Yes, I'm pretty sure that 'tenacity' is a requirement ! Not to mention, if they are using an employee of the hospital to do this role (as opposed to someone 'external'), 'bravery'.

    But, well done the trust.

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  • isn't so silly and paradoxical that such a role is required, costing more salaries and taking nurses away from the bedside. as autonomous professionals nurses have the right to and full responsibility to free expression and advocacy for their patients and to be heard by those responsible for providing the resources and supporting the staff in this role, who should be acting on their advice. What the hell is this and nursing all about?

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  • So, another trust is employing someone to do what managers, nursing directors, medical directors, HR and a host of others (all on more than my old Band 7 salary) are supposed to be doing already?

    And we are meant to think this is a good thing?

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  • Steve - good stuff but strictly speaking it's the 3rd - don't forget Delilah Hesling at Brighton

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  • tinkerbell

    I'm glad 'cultural change' is being acknowledged as requirement. For far too long nothing has changed, mostly due to lip service & bad management & bean counters. If this is what needs to happen to get 'real' change for the better then bring it on. I hope the ambassadors do not become yet another layer of all that is wrong in our institution and stay true to their remit because they will come up against some brick walls that need to broken down.

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