CQC allows National Guardian to make unsubstantiated claims, and ignores harmful behaviour by Freedom To Speak Up Guardians

Dr Minh Alexander retired consultant psychiatrist 12 December 2022

At present the spotlight is on failures of the Freedom To Speak Up model, as a result of BBC Newsnight’s investigation into poor culture and whistleblower reprisal University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Dozens of UHB staff have come forward since the first broadcast and more continue to come forward with stories of bullying and suppression.

Interview evidence from proponents of the Freedom To Speak Up model and the FTSU Guardian at UHB have served only to highlight failure of the model:

Under the microscope: The Freedom To Speak Up model and University Hospitals Birmingham

What the UHB Freedom To Speak Up Guardian told the BBC

But the National Guardian’s office continues to serve its primary political function: to pump out propaganda for the DHSC.

In May 2022 I objected to a blog by Jayne Chidgey-Clark the latest National Guardian, in which she made a claim that NHS staff would be well treated by Freedom To Speak Up Guardians.

She wrote:

Speaking up can take courage, however you are not alone. If you cannot speak up to your manager or HR or your patient safety team, you can talk to your Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. They will listen with empathy, so you need not feel lonely, and will help raise the matter in your organisation.” [my emphasis]

This claim was made without any substantiation.

I advised Chidgey-Clark that there was opposing evidence, and that some Freedom To Speak Up Guardians had harmed or not helped NHS staff who spoke up.

I asked her to withdraw her claims, or to provide the evidence upon which her claim was based, and to consider the likely life-changing effects upon any staff who might whistleblow on the basis of her flawed assurances.

Chidgey-Clark stonewalled and made no changes to her blog. The misleading blog remains on her website to this day.

Neither did she produce any substantiating evidence.

When I sent her additional evidence of a particularly serious example of abusive behaviour by an NHS trust Freedom To Speak Up Guardian, Chidgey-Clark ignored me.

This is the evidence that she ignored:

“My experience with a FTSU Guardian has not been a positive one. I spoke up in REDACTED and initially the FTSU was responsive in listening to my concerns. However it very quickly became apparent that she was having personal friendships with the senior executives who she reported to. She described going out after work with them drinking and openly discussing cases. I witnessed this FTSU take a phone call from a whistleblower and move the phone away from her ear for 20 seconds or more pretending to listen. When this call ended she said she didn’t believe what her was saying.

She became evasive and rejected my calls pretending not to be in the building. On  a number of occasions I went to her office and she was there but just screening calls.

She would say things like don’t share anything else with me because I can’t do anything.

She also broke confidence and shared others experiences of their cases of speaking up.

I would not approach another FTSU Guardian again after my experience and I would not advise anyone else’s to either. How can they be independent when they work in the organisation they represent and often are line managed by senior influential executives.  I have no trust or faith in the position due to my own personal experience.”

As the National Guardian ignored me, I raised the matter with Ian Dilks Care Quality Commission Chair and asked him to ensure that Chidgey-Clark’s blog was corrected to reflect the facts.

(By that point, NHSE/I had dumped its responsibility for investigating complaints about the National Guardian to the CQC.)

I sent Dilks additional evidence from Portsmouth Hospitals whistleblower Dr Jasna Macanovic about her experience of the Freedom To Speak Up system:

Dr Jasna Macanovic’s experience, shared on 28 May 2022:

“Dear Minh, 

I am forwarding the correspondence with [REDACTED], FTSU Guardian in Portsmouth in 2017/2018. 

We met on 2 occasions and exchanged some emails and text messages. She was present at the meeting I requested with CEO Cubbon on 10th August 2017. I will forward the email relating to that meeting. She has not helped at all, although she appeared to be listening. However, she could not understand a highly technical medical issue and was clearly intimidated by the CEO. She did not speak at all at the meeting on 10th July. 

She sent me a text message afterward “ My job is to remain independent but ensure processes are adhered to. I thought Marc C was fair and has given you an opportunity to express the errors and omissions as you see them best wishes J ‘.

She obviously did not understand the policies and procedures, or the Law as she did not raise any concerns about the case as far as I can see with anyone. From the judgment- you would have seen that ALL Internal procedures have been ignored in my case. [my emphasis]

As it happens – the Trust decided that rules are not applicable in my case, they continued with bullying and discrimination that culminated in my dismissal. The unsafe practice has never been addressed and the practitioners involved in malpractice have been promoted. 

I have several texts from REDACTED indicating that she was in contact with the National FTSU office in the first half of July 2017. 

I contacted the national office myself and was told that they do not get involved in individual cases or disciplinary processes and that I will be free to submit a case review form if/ and when I win a case for unfair dismissal in court. I am trying to locate the correspondence. This approach is appalling. 
[my emphasis]

I was lucky enough as I had a cast-iron case, and was resilient and financially capable of taking the case to the court. I do not know anyone else around me who would have survived this process. The ferocity and avalanche of unwarranted insults would have destroyed anyone. 

I firmly believe that the existence of the FTSU process ( Local and National Guardians) is an intellectually flawed concept. Well-run organisations do not need them, poorly run NHS organisations pay no attention to FTSU Guardians who are generally intimidated by the power and in my case, unable to comprehend their duties, policies, and the law. The FTSU Office has not  help me or the patients at the Wessex Kidney Centre/ Portsmouth Hospitals. 

Kind regards


Caroline Homer the CQC Deputy National Complaints Manager was assigned to the matter.

Caroline Homer initially tried to dismiss and shut down the complaint about the National Guardian without following CQC’s complaint procedure.

She did not liaise with me for particularisation of my complaint.

After an objection, she went through the motions of following CQC’s policy, but still dismissed the complaint.

This was on spurious grounds that the National Guardian was making a claim in her blog about what should happen and not what actually happens.

1 August 2022

“Dear Dr Alexander

Thank you for your emails below.  I have carefully considered the comments you have made and revisited my previous response.

Dr Chidgey-Clark’s intent was for the blog was to set the expectations of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian role as defined by the supporting job description I previously referenced.  In your correspondence you have presented a different opinion in how you have interpreted the statements made, as is your individual right.  However, this difference of opinion on the intention behind Dr Chidgey-Clark’s message does not render the blog misleading and our position in respect of your complaint remains not upheld. 

As such, I reiterate you may wish to approach the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman via your local Member of Parliament in the event you feel our handling has been disproportionate or unreasonable.

Kind regards

Caroline Homer
Deputy National Complaints Manager – National Complaints Team”

The full correspondence with Chidgey-Clark and CQC can be found here.

CQC seems to have a different understanding of the English language to everyone else.

Moreover, CQC’s complaint decision implies that as far as CQC are concerned, it’s not what you do that matters, but what you intended.

Acts and facts are immaterial.

Is that also how CQC approach their prosecutorial powers?

Neither Chidgey-Clark nor the CQC asked about or followed up on the examples that I gave of inappropriate responses by Freedom To Speak Up Guardians.

Evidence is unwelcome in La La Land.

Two weeks after Caroline Homer’s decision to protect the National Guardian instead of protecting the truth, a shocking Employment Tribunal judgment of 15 August 2022 determined that the Freedom To Speak Up Guardian at the Royal Free had taken part in detrimental actions against a whistleblower.

Fundamental failure of the NHS Freedom To Speak Up Project: Dr Rajai Al-Jehani unfairly sacked by Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust for whistleblowing on breaches of Human Tissue law, with suppression of linked investigations by University College London

Failure is the CQC’s leitmotif.

It would be funny if were not so tragic for patients and whistlebowers.


Please click and add your signature to this petition to reform UK whistleblowing law – whistleblowers protect us all but weak UK law leaves them wholly exposed, lets abusers off the hook and it is a threat to public safety.

Replace weak UK whistleblowing law and protect whistleblowers and the public


The National Guardian’s Office claimed its case records had been twice audited. When further probing revealed that was untrue, the NGO claimed there was no need for these whistleblower case files to be audited:

Why has the National Guardian’s Office given conflicting information about quality assurance of its case records and protection of whistleblowers’ confidentiality?

In 2019 the previous National Guardian shockingly claimed that Freedom To Speak Up Guardians had saved lives and prevented “untold” harm, without producing any evidence to substantiate this:

The low fact National Guardian’s Office

The National Guardian’s Office finally apologises for a breach of whistleblower confidentiality but fails to demonstrate sufficient learning

National Guardian’s gaslighting exclusion criteria: the never ending story

The National Guardian’s Office does not put a blue light on for ambulance staff.

Staff suicides at West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

The toothlessness of the National Guardian’s Office: Why it cannot be a model for protecting whistleblowers

The Disinterested National Guardian & Robert Francis’ Unworkable Freedom To Speak Up Project

SSOTP: Robert Francis’ exemplar trust has feet of clay, and Jeremy Hunt’s safety claims are un-evidenced

One thought on “CQC allows National Guardian to make unsubstantiated claims, and ignores harmful behaviour by Freedom To Speak Up Guardians

  1. At this time of year, it’s always nice to revisit the past.
    I’m thinking of the 18th century where the French court was captivated by royal fashions – whose wig is highest; crinoline widest – and various royal protocols and rituals. Unfortunately, whilst the Royal Court entertained itself and financed its existence extravagantly, the hardworking peasants were ignored or punished and humiliated but all were universally starved.
    It seems to be asking for trouble to allow a wide gap to develop between those who provide a useful service but whose talents are ignored or worse, and those considered to be in positions of authority but who can, for example, only offer dazzling teeth and lanyards.


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