‘New whistleblower guardian role must be accountable to the CQC’ @alistairbauer

The work of ‘whistleblowing guardians’ in every NHS organisation must be scrutinised by the Care Quality Commission to ensure they are doing the job properly, according to the nurse whose courage inspired the new role. A review of whistleblowing by Sir Robert Francis, published last week, revealed staff who had spoken up about poor care had been driven out of their jobs by bullying, making other staff afraid to speak up. Sir Robert said: ‘What I heard in the review leaves me in no doubt there is a serious problem in the NHS.’ The government has accepted in principle recommendations set out by Sir Robert, including introducing ‘freedom-to-speak-up guardians’ in every NHS organisation. The role is modelled on the work of Helene Donnelly (right), who exposed appalling care at Stafford Hospital. Ms Donnelly, later made ambassador for cultural change at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, welcomed the plan. The guardians would be expected to act independently in supporting staff. Such a person could have been helpful to her when she initially raised concerns


By Alistair Kleebauer

at Mid Staffs, Ms Donnelly told Nursing Standard. However, she cautioned: ‘There will be trusts that do not do it properly, and do it as a tick-box exercise or put the wrong people into the role. We have got to make sure the role is assessed as part of CQC inspections and that the postholder will be accountable for their actions.’ Sir Robert’s report also said there should be a range of people to whom concerns can be reported easily, such as a non-executive director and at least one manager in each department.

The Department of Health said it will consult on how to meet Sir Robert’s recommendations, including the introduction of an independent national whistleblowing guardian at the CQC to review the most serious cases in relation to the treatment of whistleblowers. A CQC spokesperson said: ‘The guardians could make a key difference to staff being able to raise concerns.’ The DH said it will be considering how the guardians could be made accountable. For the report, see nw6mgkv

STUDENTS WHO SPEAK OUT ARE PROMISED SAME SUPPORT AS STAFF Nursing students who report poor care should have access to the same support as staff, in a move described as a ‘very positive step forward’ by the RCN. In his review of whistleblowing, Sir Robert Francis said students should have access to the ‘freedom-to-speak-up guardians’ and an independent official. Like staff, they should also be protected against the discrimination that can arise from having exposed

poor care when they are looking for a job. RCN head of policy Howard Catton said: ‘This review represents a step forward for nursing students, to say that they should have equality of treatment and access to support and training on whistleblowing as everyone else.’ Sir Robert describes students as a ‘fresh pair of eyes’, adding: ‘They are keen to provide a constructive

challenge based on current learning and research.’ The RCN made a submission to Sir Robert on the experience of student whistleblowers for his review, based on a meeting last year between Sir Robert and around 40 nursing students. They recalled examples of bullying they had faced when raising concerns. Sir Robert’s report said all nurses should be trained in how to raise and handle concerns.

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'New whistleblower guardian role must be accountable to the CQC'.

The work of 'whistleblowing guardians' in every NHS organisation must be scrutinised by the Care Quality Commission to ensure they are doing the job p...
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