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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)

  • That says it all really!

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  • Who got at her?
    Or was it the flak?
    What a mess!!

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  • Chicken.

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  • Pussy

    Chicken.

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  • Pitiful. To accept and the withdraw blaming workload is very bad form. If as a Chief Nurse you can't manage your workload then move aside, ward nurses do it every day.

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  • How disappointing as she is such a champion. However, I think that she is quite right and I wish that there were more principled leaders in nursing like her. Sadly there are very few and the system gets others in the end. The core of nursing - kindness and compassion and relationships -has been ignored by leaders and nursing is now lost as a profession. The RCN has been instrumental in this decline since nineties. The NMC has destroyed the organisation and content of nursing education.

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  • It looks like the NHS and its providers comprises of compassionate people struggling very hard and against the odds to deliver services to a reasonable standard and those who are willing for whatever reasons to comply with delivering bad service based on foolish expensive short term policies.

    Many of those who do not remain in service and who will not be engaged again are likely to be people who have been disallowed from delivering service at reasonable standards.

    This is stating the obvious but to the Treasury it seems this still remains unclear.

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  • I am available, pick me.
    I know my workload and will adjust it as required as I am flexible and focused on the role of protecting and encouraging transparency in the NHS through effective whistleblowing.
    Paul Golden RN RM BA Law Mediator
    see profile on linkedin

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  • michael stone

    This isn't an auspicious beginning - to start with, 'defining her own role' is part of the National Guardian's job, so a new person will need to start that 'thinking' all over again.

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  • michael stone

    What is puzzling, is that she seems to have not understood something, before she accepted the job. It is hard to see how she didn't see the mounting pressures on the NHS coming - that has been obvious. So, it looks as if she under-estimated the time and effort that the National Guardian role would require - if it is to be successful, it cannot be 'a token role', so this is rather odd.

    But I doubt that anybody 'got at her' (John Smith) - however, it is definitely 'a mess' !

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