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”
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, 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.