By Dr Minh Alexander NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist, 19 December 2016
Against advice and calls for independence, the Department of Health safely lodged the new office of the National Guardian for NHS whistleblowing with its accommodating regulator, the CQC.
The National Guardian answers directly to CQC’s Chief Executive David Behan, a Department of Health old boy.
Two successive corporate appointees were chosen. The first resigned within two months. Henrietta Hughes, an NHS England Medical Director was appointed as the replacement National Guardian in July and took up post over two months ago.
The National Guardian’s remit is restricted to the point of irrelevance.
She will reportedly not investigate any whistleblower cases, merely ‘review’ a select few, whatever that means.
|“I’m not an investigation body; I’m not an ombudsman body; I can’t determine..” 1|
That of course means that even more whistleblowers may be turned away on the grounds that their cases are ‘historic’. The National Guardian does not do ‘historic’ 4 and has said that she doubts it would be value for money to look back.
|“Dr Hughes said attempting to “unpick historic situations that may be in organisations which no longer exist, with members of staff who’ve moved on” would not be the “best use of the small and limited resources that I have”. 1|
I contacted Henrietta Hughes in July and was told that she would be consulting widely in due course. 5 No public announcements or invitations followed.
I asked to attend an event for Local Guardians, to observe, and was refused. In October I wrote enquiring about a timetable for the office’s development, but I have not received a reply.
My sources tell me that there will be a National Guardian event on Friday 20 January, that has not been advertised.
This is a critically important meeting because the event’s purpose is to discuss how a stakeholder advisory group – which according to HSJ will reportedly pick the cases to be reviewed by the National Guardian 1 – will be established:
|“we are planning to hold a meeting on the 20 January 2017… to identify the key roles and responsibilities of the stakeholder advisory group and potential membership”|
It looks a corporate affair, with a lot of familiar faces and some added local Trust Guardians, some of whom worryingly are also senior managers. For example, a non executive director and a director of corporate affairs.
Whilst this may all be very agreeable and comfortable for participants, is it right that so many frontline whistleblowers have been shut out of a key discussion about the mechanism for choosing cases for review?
But perhaps whistleblowers will be comforted by the thought that their travails have launched an industry, and created employment for others.
Pass the oxytocin please.
Have a look at the delegate list and judge for yourself:
REPORTED LIST OF DELEGATES FOR A NATIONAL GUARDIAN STAKEHOLDER EVENT ON FRIDAY 20 JANUARY 2016
|Jerina Brown, Corporate Secretary CQC|
|Heather Bruce University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHSFT|
|Cassandra Cameron NHS Providers|
|Claire Campbell George Eliot Hospital NHST|
|Georgina Charlton Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHSFT|
|Chris Chrysochou Salford Royal NHSFT|
|Neil Churchill NHS England|
|Keith Conradi HSIB|
|Mary Cridge CQC|
|Helene Donnelly Cultural Ambassador Stoke On Trent & Staffordshire on Trent|
|Ginny Edwards West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHST|
|Kate Erskine Imperial College Healthcare NHST|
|Judith Graham Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHSFT|
|Tom Grimes NHS Improvement|
|Chris Ham King’s Fund|
|Cathy James Public Concern at Work|
|Paula Johnson South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHSFT|
|Narinder Kapur Psychologist|
|Roger Kline NHS England|
|Chris McGhee Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHSFT|
|Neelam Mehay Speak Up Guardian West Midlands|
|Danny Mortimer NHS Employers|
|Katherine Murphy Patients Association|
|Newcastle Speak Up Guardian|
|Sonia Pearcey Gloucestershire Care Services NHST|
|Susan Robinson Healthwatch England|
|Anne Sharp ACAS|
|Lisa Smith York Teaching Hospitals NHSFT|
|Wayne Walker Torbay and South Devon NHST|
|Elaine Williams Berkshire Healthcare NHSFT|
About Henrietta’s penchant for Love Actually and oxytocin, as revealed by an Times interview, and a rule that she introduced for staff on compulsory smiling at 10 feet.
Why no one believes Jeremy Hunt on patient safety and whistleblowers, not even his own appointees
A little stroll down memory lane regarding events surrounding the short lived first National Guardian’s appointment
1 Whistleblower guardian will not be an ‘investigation body’. Will Hazel Health Service Journal, 12 October 2016
“She said the cases the office would look at would be decided by a “stakeholder advisory group”, which would include people with experience of whistleblowing.”
2 NHS whistleblowing tsar hasn’t investigated a single case and won’t review any patient neglect claims until 2017, Andrew Gregory, Mirror 13 December 2016
3 CQC FOI disclosure 6 December 2016
4 CQC FAQs about the National Guardian’s office
“The office is not an appeal body and does not have powers to review historic cases.”
5 Email from Henrietta Hughes 7 July 2016:
“Dear Dr Alexander
Thank you very much for your kind email.
I plan to start in my new role in October and until then I am not dealing with any queries about the office as I have ongoing responsibilities in my current job. Over the coming months the precise scope and design will be defined. I will be seeking views from a wide range of individuals and organisations both from within the NHS and externally to ensure that best practice can be shared.
For any specific queries that you have at this time please may I redirect you to the office at the following phone number 0300 067 9000.
With warm regards