The NHS has been forced to endure a major embarrassment, after the resignation of an individual who was appointed to a key position only two months ago.
Dame Eileen Sills was appointed as the first ‘national guardian’ with a remit to support NHS whistleblowers, but has resigned from the post.
Sills indicated that her decision was related to her commitment to patients and staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, where she remains the chief nurse.
Commenting in a statement posted on the website of the Care Quality Commission, Stills pointed to the fact that combining the two roles was simply too demanding.
“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.”
Nonetheless, the chief nurse looked forward to fulfilling her new job with requisite concentration, predicting that it would be both difficult and challenging.
Only one month ago, Sills had stated that it was her intention to contribute to and deliver “a new culture of transparency and openness”.
But evidently the job has proven to be too demanding considering her existing schedule.
At the time of her appointment, Sills indicated that she would work two days a week in her new role, and stated that she considered it to be particularly important.
“It is very important to me that I remain present in my NHS trust. My new appointment has to give credibility to the role, but I also need to be there for staff.”
Yet despite the potential embarrassment of this rather fleeting appointment, the decision has not come as a surprise to many experts and analysts.
NHS observers have suggested that the position of the Guardian should be a full-time commitment, and thus many sages have suggested that the decision of Sills was inevitable.
The CQC stated that non-executive support to the office of the national guardian had been offered by a CQC board member, Sir Robert Francis QC, until a new appointment is finalised.
Francis released a brief statement on his position.
“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.”
Francis’ review of the NHS in 2014 first opined that an independent national guardian for whistleblowers was a necessity.
At that time, Francis discovered that NHS staff who blow the whistle on substandard and dangerous practices were being ignored, bullied or even intimidated in a “climate of fear”.