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Leading chief nurse resigns from national whistleblowing guardian post

  • 20 Comments

The senior nurse appointed as England’s first whistleblowing guardian has resigned from the post just two months after being given the job and before her official start date.

Dame Eileen Sills said she had stepped down because it was not possible to combine the post with her other role as chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

“After two months it is very clear that it is not possible to combine the role of the national guardian - the increasing challenges NHS providers face”

Eileen Sills

She noted the “increasing challenges NHS providers face” and said it was not possible to do “justice to both roles”.

Sir Robert Francis – whose major report last year on whistleblowing in the NHS recommended creating the post – will offer non-executive support to the office of the national whistleblowing guardian until a new appointment is made.

The post was designed to identify systematic barriers to whistleblowing and to support local “freedom-to-speak-up guardians” in each trust, tasked with creating a more open culture in their organisatons.

Dame Eileen was due to respond to the recently closed consultation on the role of the national guardian and to establish the office for the post, expected to become operational on 1 April.

Sir Robert said today: “The office of the national guardian is a vital element in the drive to change the culture of the NHS to one which welcomes and supports staff who raise concerns.

“Separately from my role as a CQC board member I am happy to offer non-executive support for the office as it continues its work until a guardian is appointed,” he said.

“The work of setting up the office of the national guardian will continue as planned, with a focus on supporting and working with freedom-to-speak-up guardians”

David Behan

David Behan, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, which appointed Dame Eileen, said: “I was disappointed to receive Dame Eileen’s resignation but I respect her honesty in making this difficult decision.

“A new appointment process will begin immediately,” he said. ”The work of setting up the office of the national guardian will continue as planned, with a focus on supporting and working with freedom-to-speak-up guardians in NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts.”

In a statement, Dame Eileen said: “It has been a very difficult decision to take but after two months it is very clear that it is not possible to combine the role of the national guardian – and establishment of the office – with the increasing challenges NHS providers face, while doing justice to both roles.

“My commitment to our patients and staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust means that I have to step down from the national guardian role,” she added.

  • 20 Comments

Readers' comments (20)

  • Read her reasons again and the choice words of establishment - a double meaning? Is she saying something but not? What spooked you, is it April Eileen?

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  • To Michael Stone

    Check out "Failure of Nurse Workforce Plan..." 25th Feb.

    I do not know if anyone did get at her or not but it is easily possible in the current climate.

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  • Judging by the comments on this forum which greeted her initial appointment, I would have to say that most nurses are pleased that she has seen the light. A tad shocking that someone at her level did not have the foresight required to understand the mounting pressures within the NHS and beyond; it's hardly been a secret.

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  • michael stone

    ANONYMOUS5 MARCH, 2016 10:47 PM

    I think I found the NT piece you pointed at - I didn't really read it, but unless it implied that with respect to workforce planning Dame Eileen was personally 'at fault', I'm not sure how that is relevant ?

    The Guardian roles - both National and Local - are about trying to ensure that staff can 'raise concerns' without fear of any adverse consequences of doing that, and about trying to make sure that 'concerns are properly looked at': how is that role, connected to 'workforce [numbers] planning' ? You might argue that if there are too few staff, more problems and mistakes will arise - but I see no fundamental connection between the role of the National Guardian and staffing levels (I don't think the Guardian is about things like 'establishing what a safe staffing level would be' - although the role would, I think, involve 'telling the powers-that-be that Local Guardians are raising concerns, which the guardians consider stem from staff being over-worked').

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  • Someone needs to know that they are not able to carry out the task this role entails before going for it. On the other hand someone else must have showed interest at the onset and not given.
    She should have known her workload will not allow her to function in the new one anyway before accepting.
    I'm bent sure that something happened!

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  • As someone who spoke up I can not see how simply looking at process would have saved me. The CQC hiring in hiring you are a part the problem. I'm sure they employ many ex managers from the NHS, at least grade 7 and above and so they are hardly going to rock the boat! Most people who speak up are not the ones you hear about. The ones you know are the ones with money to fight their case. We are drowning in a sea of mass ignorance and discarding patient well-being, WB deprivation, also protected by weak apologist approaches such as the NG & senior figure false gurus on social media. I think Eileen you understand the dam is just about to break and nothing the government can do will stop it. The easiest answer to why is this government are too reliant on who is seen as legitimate, credible and will follow orders to protect reputation and not truth. Meanwhile I and my family shortly face homelessness for doing the right thing. How can we speak when professional regulators are used as a Damocles? And now the NHS ESR system can identify those disciplined, suspended or otherwise in attempt to find employment. There are moment when I want to approach the press but I don't because homelessness would be certain. Jeremy Hunt I am desperately pleading with you that you must resign you are destroying the NHS and peoples families like mine.

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  • michael stone

    ANONYMOUS9 MARCH, 2016 10:07 AM

    Not that it helps you at all, I think the situation you describe:

    'Meanwhile I and my family shortly face homelessness for doing the right thing'

    is DREADFUL - sadly, that (effectively, the 'persecution of staff who raise concerns') seems to happen far too often inside 'the NHS'.

    It does need sorting out !

    If my memory serves [from when I read the Consultation], it will be possible to raise concerns with Local Guardians anonymously - whether that is the default option chosen by staff, would be the test of whether the system has moved to a 'no blame culture' or not.

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  • Jeremy I'm reading your twitter and Dr protection for speaking up is not going to work when you're hardly protecting nursing staff. What some families most want is the assurances of a roof over their heads for doing so. Sometimes it's not simply learning its the fact you need to go. Jeremy too late for promises.

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  • I'd agree that Ms. Sills should have the intelligence to have foreseen that she could not be all things to all roles. Better late than never. Sadly it appears to me that many nurses are expected to do just this and are not allowed to opt out of roles they cannot fulfil in the time allowed . Not all of us are gifted with the 'time management skills' of a previous contributor.

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  • It is situations such as this that make potential whistle blowers nervous.I am a whistle blower with a passion to improve the client experience and highlight bad practice. I aim to do so in house but end up in difficult situations as people perceive me as a threat and make up allegations about my practice. During my attempts at whistle blowing I have been distracted by defending myself for two years. I am hoping now that I have withstood the test of time that I can speak out and continue on my mission to protect the elderly and expose this current care crisis for what it is and implement changes to halt and turnaround future care for all.

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