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GP to be national guardian for whistleblowers

CQC appoints Henrietta Hughes as guardian

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 11 July 2016

Regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has appointed GP Henrietta Hughes (pictured) to be its national guardian for speaking up freely and safely.

Dr Hughes, a GP from London, will help to lead a cultural change within NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts, said the CQC, so that healthcare staff feel confident to raise concerns about patient care in England.

The choice was made by a panel consisting of representatives of CQC, NHS England and NHS Improvement, as co-sponsors for the National Guardian’s Office, as well as the Patients Association and Sir Robert Francis QC, whose independent review from February 2015 into whistleblowing across the NHS led to the creation of the national guardian role.

Dr Hughes has more than 20 years of experience across primary, secondary and community healthcare. She is a practising GP and has been medical director for NHS England’s North Central and East London region since 2013, a role in which she provides system leadership across 12 CCGs and 12 NHS trusts.

The post, which Dr Hughes will take up in October, includes leading, advising and supporting the growing network of Freedom to Speak Up guardians within NHS trusts who are responsible for developing a culture of openness within their hospitals.

David Behan, CQC chief executive, said: “The need for the NHS to have a positive reporting culture, which encourages and supports its staff to raise concerns about care without fear of reprimand has been stressed time and time again and now must become common practice.

“Leading the healthcare system on this journey alongside the Freedom to Speak Up Guardians within NHS trusts will be a core aim of the national guardian and her office, so that ultimately, patients can get the safe, high-quality and compassionate care they deserve.”

Dr Hughes said: “I am very excited to be appointed as the national guardian and recognise that supporting and protecting staff across the NHS who wish to speak up is a huge and tremendously important responsibility.

“It requires a great deal of courage, honesty, and selflessness to ‘blow the whistle’. People should never feel that they are at risk of punishment when advocating better and safer care for patients.

“As a practising GP and with my experience in the NHS, both on the frontline and at leadership levels, I understand the challenges that lie ahead.”

Sir Robert Francis, CQC board member, said: “It is important that every part of the NHS develops a culture in which it is entirely normal to raise issues about safety, quality and effectiveness of the service, for those issues to be addressed and for those who raise them to be protected from any adverse consequences arising out of their disclosures.

“I believe that the national guardian, her office and the network of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians all have an invaluable role to play in supporting these changes.”

Picture: courtesy of CQC

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