The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has appointed Dame Eileen Sills DBE as the first national guardian for speaking up safely within the NHS.
Dame Eileen will help to lead cultural change so that healthcare staff always feel confident and supported to raise concerns about patient care. According to a CQC spokesperson 'the new National Guardian role has initially been designed specifically to lead changes in NHS and Foundation Trusts as this was what was specifically highlighted in Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review. It is anticipated in time that other health sectors will learn from this practice.' This includes community trusts and GP practices.
She will lead, advise and support a network of individuals within NHS Trusts, appointed as 'local freedom to speak up guardians,' who will be responsible for developing a culture of openness at local trust level. She will also share good practice, report on national or common themes and identify any barriers to speaking up safely.
'In this role therefore, I will take my current experience, working with individuals and organisations to learn the lessons from reviews and investigations to date,' she 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.
Dame Eileen will work in partnership with the CQC, NHS England and NHS Improvement but will work independently within the role.
The need for a national guardian was highlighted in Robert Francis's Freedom to Speak up review released in February 2015.
She will remain in her role as chief nurse at Guy's and St Thomas' but will step down from her role as the Trust's executive lead for speaking up safely, but she has stepped down as senior nurse advisor for the Nursing and Midwifery Council and chair of the Shelford Nursing Group of Chief Nurses.
She has been chief nurse at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust since 2005. She has been a registered nurse for over 30 years during which she has held a number of general management and senior management posts. Dame Eileen was awarded a CBE in 2003 for services to nursing and a DBE in January 2015.
She will take up post from 1 April and her immediate priorities will be to respond to the recently closed consultation on the role of national guardian.