• Dame Eileen Sills steps down as national guardian for NHS whistleblowers after just two months
  • She says it was “not possible” to combine the role with being nursing director of Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT
  • Sir Robert Francis to provide “non-executive support” to the office

Dame Eileen Sills, the national guardian for NHS whistleblowers, has resigned after just two months in the role.

In a statement she said it had become clear that it was “not possible” to combine the office with her existing role as nursing director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.

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The whistleblower guardian role was called for by Sir Robert Francis

The Care Quality Commission, which hosts the national guardian’s office, said Sir Robert Francis QC has offered “non-executive support” to the office until a new appointment is made.

Sir Robert, who is a CQC non-executive director, called for the creation of the office in his review into NHS whistleblowing. He said it was a “vital element in the drive to change the culture of the NHS”.

Dame Eileen said: “It has been a very difficult decision to take but after two months it is very clear that it is not possible to combine the role of the national guardian – and establishment of the office – with the increasing challenges NHS providers face, while doing justice to both roles.

“My commitment to our patients and staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust means that I have to step down from the national guardian role.”

CQC chief executive David Behan said: “I was disappointed to receive Dame Eileen’s resignation but I respect her honesty in making this difficult decision.

“A new appointment process will begin immediately. The work of setting up the office of the national guardian will continue as planned, with a focus on supporting and working with freedom to speak up guardians in NHS trusts and foundation trusts.”

Dame Eileen was announced as the national guardian in January and the office is set to begin carrying out its functions in April.

The fact that she would have been in role two days a week while continuing to work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ three days a week was criticised by some NHS staff and prominent whistleblowers.

However, in an interview with HSJ shortly after the announcement, Dame Eileen said her link to the front line through the role at Guy’s and St Thomas’ gave her “credibility”.

She said: “If it takes me near enough the hours of doing two full-time jobs then in terms of the start it will be worth it.”

She also said she would be “the first person to say if it’s not working”.