The Care Quality Commission has appointed the first National Guardian for whistleblowers in the NHS, in the hope fostering an environment that encourages healthcare workers to speak up over sub-standard care.

Dame Eileen Sills, the Chief Nurse at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, is taking on the role to develop a culture of openness across the NHS and ensure staff always feel confident and supported to raise concerns about patient care.

The need for the role was highlighted in Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review in February last year following the scandal at Mid Staffs NHS Trust, which concluded that patient safety was being put at risk by the failure of staff to raise concerns over mistakes. 

Commenting on the appointment, David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: "We know that healthcare professionals are committed to delivering good care, day in and day out and that many organisations respond to any concerns they may have openly and transparently as a normal part of working. This results in better and safer care for patients.

"As the National Guardian, Dame Eileen will strive to ensure that this is common practice right across the NHS. By working with the local ambassadors within NHS trusts she will contribute to the change in culture that is needed."

Medway Trust to remain in special measures

Meanwhile, the CQC also announced that it has rated Medway NHS Foundation Trust as ‘inadequate’ and recommends that the trust remains in special measures.

Inspectors found the trust still needed to make significant improvements to ensure it was consistently delivering care which was safe, effective, caring, and responsive to people’s needs.

Earlier in the year an inspection revealed concerns about standards of patient safety in the accident and emergency department, after which the trust and commissioners took action to ensure there were more staff on duty and patient flow throughout the department was more effective.

However, the latest inspection highlights continuing concerns with medical care, surgery and outpatient and diagnostic services, which were also rated ‘inadequate’.

'Not satisfied'

“I am not satisfied that the underlying issues throughout the trust have been resolved,” said Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals. “It is disappointing to report that performance may even have deteriorated in some areas, despite the support which has been offered to the trust up until now”.

“It is clear that the trust cannot solve these important issues on its own, and will require continued support for the foreseeable future”.

The CQC has told the trust it must make improvements in 31 areas, including managing allegations of bullying and whistleblowing and performance management in line with agreed policies, and improve the flow of patients.