The CQC has confirmed that, despite the departure of Dame Eileen Sills as National Guardian, and David Bell as Interim Deputy Guardian, the office of the National Guardian will be operational by the end of this month, in line with the original plans.
While recruitment is underway for the new National Guardian, Sir Robert Francis will provide non-executive support and oversight to the office with the help of the CQC, NHS Improvement and NHS England. This support will enable to unit to begin its vital work, without compromising the ability of Dame Eileen’s successor to shape its functionality.
The team is on course to begin operating and provide advice and support to NHS Trusts on the role of local guardians from the end of April and the office’s main functions will be phased in throughout the year as follows:
1. Providing advice and support to NHS Trusts and local guardians operating within NHS trusts as they establish this role (by end of September 2016),
2. Giving broader advice to NHS management on how to improve and create a culture for healthcare staff to speak up safely.
3. Beginning to develop the process and criteria for reviewing the handling of whistle-blowing cases (by the end of the year).
The National Guardian role will be advertised later this month, with interviews planned over May and June.
Sir Robert Francis QC, CQC board member and author of the ‘Freedom to Speak Up' review, said:
“The Office of the National Guardian is a key part of the promotion of the freedom to speak up in the NHS. I remain personally committed to help see a new National Guardian appointed as soon as possible and to oversee the continuing development of the infrastructure required to support the new appointee. I am confident that the team at CQC is working hard to ensure that the new Guardian has the support in place to enable this vital work to be done.”