Stafford nurse Helene Donnelly, Ambassador for Cultural Change at the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust NHS, is to take on a new role at the Department of Health to develop whistle-blowing training for all NHS staff .
She will work with Health Education England to introduce greater support for health and care staff to ensure they are fully aware of how to raise the alarm about concerns over patient safety, neglect and high death rates.
"I know from experience how frightening and daunting a task it can feel to raise concerns in the workplace," she said. "There are many reasons why people feel that it is just easier to turn a blind eye and not raise your head above the parapet!”
Ms Donnelly added: “There has been much talk, but now is the time for action. We must truly empower and support all NHS staff to raise concerns, and part of this is about ensuring they know how to do so and what to do if their concerns are ignored.
“That’s why I’m delighted to be working on new mandatory training about whistleblowing, so that all staff will know what to do if they see care slip below the high standards we would all expect.”
She previously worked in the A&E department at Stafford Hospital and following her experience and difficulties in trying to raise concerns there, she was a key witness at the Public Inquiry held by Robert Francis QC into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Donnelly became the Partnership Trust's Ambassador for Cultural Change in 2013 and was appointed to encourage greater professionalism, support staff to raise concerns and ensure that the voice of the frontline is heard clearly at a senior level within the organisation.
Her appointment was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a keynote speech at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.
The Health Secretary also encouraged NHS Trusts to join the new “Sign up to Safety” initiative which aimsto reduce avoidable harm in the NHS by half over the next three years, cut costs and save up to 6,000 lives.
“Speaking out should never be confused with a lack of commitment to NHS values or ‘running down the NHS'," he said. "The highest form of commitment to our NHS is surely the courage to speak out against the system when the system gets it wrong.
“We need to equip staff with the skills and confidence to speak up. It is my ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world.”