Daily Mirror 8 JAN 2016 BY ANDREW GREGORY
Dame Eileen Sills has been unveiled as country’s first ever National Guardian in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal
The Government’s new whistleblowing tsar only works two days a week and has kept her £174,000-a-year job at one of Britain’s busiest hospital trusts, it can be revealed.
Dame Eileen Sills was this week unveiled as the country’s first ever National Guardian to help “advise and support” whistleblowers across the NHS.
The post was a key recommendation of Sir Robert Francis, who chaired the Mid Staffs public inquiry into the worst scandal in the history of the NHS.
Yet the Daily Mirror can disclose that Dame Eileen will in fact be working just two days a week and still be doing her current £174,000-a-year NHS job.
Hailing her appointment on Thursday, Jeremy Hunt said he was “confident” Dame Eileen would “inspire the NHS to go even further in improving how staff can raise concerns without fear or discrimination.”
And the Care Quality Commission, the NHS watchdog providing Dame Eileen with an office, said she would be “highly visible” in her new role.
Her duties will include supporting whistleblower guardians based in NHS trusts, sharing “good practice”, advising trusts and staff raising concerns.
In a press release, the CQC said: “As the National Guardian for the freedom to speak up, Dame Eileen will help to lead a cultural change…so that healthcare staff always feel confident and supported to raise concerns about patient care.”
But controversially she has been allowed to keep her senior role as Chief Nurse and Director of Patient Experience and Infection Control at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, as well as continuing to serve as a member of its board.
The only role Dame Eileen has stepped down from at the London trust is as its executive lead for Speaking Up Safely. The CQC said this was in order “to prevent any conflict of interests”.
When approached by the Daily Mirror, the trust confirmed Dame Eileen’s £174,000 annual salary would remain “unchanged”.
The Health Secretary has repeatedly vowed to “help those who raise safety concerns” in the NHS in order to “protect patients”.
Last year an independent review was held into whistleblowing in the health service. It was led by Sir Robert following his inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal.
The whistleblowing inquiry found NHS staff who raised the alarm about dangerous practices were being ignored, bullied or even intimidated in a “climate of fear”.
A significant proportion of health workers were afraid to blow the whistle about poor patient care and safety failures in the NHS, the review discovered, and “shocking” accounts of whistleblowers’ treatment were uncovered.
Following the inquiry, Mr Hunt personally backed the introduction of the role of a National Guardian and said whistleblowers would “have the government’s strong support”.
Dame Eileen is a highly experienced NHS professional. She has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years, has held several management and senior leadership posts, and was made a Dame in January last year.
But our revelation that she will maintain a separate £174,000-a-year NHS job, is likely to anger NHS staff, whistleblowers and campaigners.
Julie Bailey, who helped expose the horrific neglect at Mid Staffs which cost up to 1,400 lives, described the news as “disappointing”.
She also raised concerns that Dame Eileen, who has previously advised David Cameron and members of the cabinet on dementia, was an “insider”.
Ms Bailey, who set up campaign group Cure The NHS after her mother, Bella, 86, died at Stafford Hospital, said: “I suspect there will be very little change, appointing a part time insider, [it] hardly fills you with confidence.”
She added: “Someone independent who would challenge and expose NHS bullies, was what I had in mind.”
A spokesman for Guy’s and St Thomas’ told the Daily Mirror Dame Eileen had “made room” to add the National Guardian role to her current brief and “remains committed to fulfilling all her professional obligations”.
But our revelations are likely to raise concerns over whether the Chief Nurse and Director of Patient Experience and Infection Control at a major NHS trust should be working elsewhere two days a week.
The website of Guy’s and St Thomas’ describes itself as being “among the UK’s busiest” trusts.
It comprises two of London’s best known hospitals, St Thomas’ Hospital and Guy’s Hospital, as well as Evelina London Children’s Hospital. The trust also provides hospital services in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
It sees two millions patients every year.
The Care Quality Commission will reimburse Guy’s and St Thomas’ £56,800 a year for Dame Eileen’s part-time role.
Roy Lilley, a health policy analyst and former NHS trust chairman, said the fact that the National Guardian for NHS whistleblowers would only be working part-time was “an affront to anyone who has suffered merely because they wanted to tell the truth about where they work”.
He added: “It waves two fingers at anyone reduced to tears by a thug of a boss, a shift from hell or has the misfortune to witness malpractice.”
Writing on his blog, he said: “Such is the importance of whistleblowing in the mind of the CQC they have appointed a part time chief guardian. Part time.”
He added: “Quite what has persuaded the board at Guy’s that they suddenly need only a part time chief nurse, director of patient experience and infection control is quite beyond me?
“What has persuaded the CQC the NHS needs only a part time boss of one of the most toxic issues in the NHS defies all explanation.”
In a press release announcing her appointment this week, Dame Eileen said: “I fully appreciate that this is a very big and challenging role, but with the support of the staff who work in the NHS, I have no doubt that we can make the changes together that are needed to deliver a new culture of transparency and openness.”
She declined to comment further when approached by the Daily Mirror via Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
In a statement earlier this week, Mr Hunt said: “Dame Eileen has dedicated her career to improving the quality of care patients receive and I am confident as the National Guardian she will inspire the NHS to go even further in improving how staff can raise concerns without fear or discrimination.”
A spokesman for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have every confidence in Eileen’s ability to balance the various demands of these two important roles.
“Her commitment to Guy’s and St Thomas’, our staff and our patients, remains as strong as ever and she will continue to perform her full duties as Chief Nurse of the Trust.
“We are proud that Eileen’s exceptional dedication to supporting patients and staff will now benefit other trusts around the country as National Guardian for the freedom to speak up.”
The spokesman added: “To make it possible to combine her roles, Eileen has stepped down from all other external NHS commitments, including as a senior nursing advisor at the Nursing and Midwifery Council and as Chair of the nurses group for the Shelford Group of leading NHS Foundation Trusts.”