Anger as NHS 'whistleblower tsar' pulls out of part-time role


Government efforts to improve patient safety in the NHS have been slammed after a newly-appointed "whistleblower tsar" resigned before even taking up her post.

Dame Eileen Sills was appointed in January as the national guardian to support worried NHS staff to speak up and was due to start in April, but she announced on Friday that she would not take on the part-time job.

Relatives affected by the scandal at the Mid Staffordshire trust, which was criticised by a public inquiry for the "routine" neglect of patients between 2005 and 2009, told the Daily Mirror of their anger.

Julie Bailey, who helped expose neglect following the death of her mother, said: "This shows that such an enormous position of great responsibility should never have been allowed to be diluted to a part-time job.

"There is no way this is a part-time role and such a suggestion is an insult to whistleblowers."

Dr Minh Alexander, who left her job after she exposed abuse at a mental health trust in Cambridgeshire, said the design of the national guardian job was flawed.

She said: "Patients will suffer if the Government continues to insist upon flawed half-measures."

Dame Eileen - who was planning to maintain her job as chief nurse at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust - said she would continue to offer non-executive support to the office until a replacement was found.

Announcing her resignation, she 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."

The national guardian post was created after a report into whistleblowing in the NHS led by Sir Robert Francis QC found there was a "serious problem".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered the review after Sir Robert led two inquiries into failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which the QC said had shown the "appalling consequences for patients when there is a 'closed ranks' culture".

David Behan, chief executive of Care Quality Commission said he was disappointed to receive Dame Eileen's resignation.

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."