A new national whistleblowing guardian will not directly investigate concerns raised by NHS staff, but will be able to “challenge others to look again at cases”, according to proposals on how the future role will operate.
Plans drawn up by the Care Quality Commission have reiterated that the guardian will make national and local recommendations on how trusts can improve their handling of employee concerns.
“The national guardian will be completely independent of NHS trusts and will speak freely and honestly about where changes are needed”
While the guardian will not having specific statutory powers, the credibility of the person in post alongside backing from national bodies will ensure their recommendations are implemented, said the CQC in a consultation document
The new role, which will be based at the CQC, was one of the key recommendations from Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up Review earlier this year, which looked at the treatment of whistleblowers and how to make it easier for them to raise concerns in the future.
Its creation was recommended alongside that of local “freedom to speak up guardians” who will report directly to their organisation’s chief executive. These will be supported by the national guardian, who will advise on standards for the post and training required, said the regulator.
The CQC said that because Sir Robert’s review looked only at NHS trusts and foundation trusts, the national guardian should initially only work with these organisations – although in the future could have their responsibilities extend to primary care as well.
Adult social care and the independent healthcare sectors should not be part of the national guardian’s remit, said the regulator, but any organisation delivering NHS services would be included.
The national guardian will have “wide discretion” over whether or not to review how individual staff concerns have been handled, said the proposals.
“This will be in situations where it appears good practice has not been followed locally and the individual has suffered detriment and/or safety and quality issues raised have not been investigated and resolved,” they stated.
The CQC added recruitment to the national guardian post was now open and it hoped to appoint someone by the end of 2015.
The postholder will begin reviewing cases from April 2016 onwards.
Meanwhile, a consultation on the proposals for how the national guardian will operate closes on 9 December.
CQC chief executive David Behan said: “The national guardian, with the support of local freedom to speak up guardians, will contribute to the changing culture that is needed to ensure that good practice exists everywhere and that staff are encouraged to speak up and are supported to do it.
“The national guardian will be completely independent of NHS trusts, be highly visible, and will speak freely and honestly about where changes are needed – both across the NHS and about how CQC, and other national bodies, respond to information of concern from those working in the sector,” he added.