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  • RogerKline

CQC: One step forward

Six months ago I wrote three blogs in three days highly critical of the Care Quality Commission. In one of them I wrote

“Good leaders model the behaviours they expect of others. Those who regulate others on whether they are well led, one’s credibility and effectiveness will be affected by whether their own organisation has such a culture. When you expect an inclusive culture with psychological safety for staff and patients in those you regulate, it helps to demonstrate such qualities oneself.

The blogs were in response to an Employment Tribunal that when one of its own inspectors reported serious concerns about patient safety and the treatment of staff in Trusts, it failed to act on those concerns and instead shot the messenger by “disengaging” him. https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions/dr-s-kumar-v-the-care-quality-commission-2410174-2019


The inspector, highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon Shyam Kumar, provided evidence of multiple concerns about patient safety, patient harm including suspicious deaths and issues of probity including removing from the subsequently published CQC Inspection Report concerns that he had raised in an inspection.


When Mr Kumar’s allegations were independently investigated, they were largely upheld (including through a Royal College of Surgeons review). The Employment Tribunal found that it was the raising of those multiple protected disclosures that led to his “disengagement”. Describing CQC managers’ evidence in part as “not plausible” the Tribunal unanimously found in favour of the sacked CQC inspector, agreed his disclosures were made in good faith and caused his dismissal, awarding damages.


I’m not sure precisely what has been put in the tea of some senior CQC leaders but the newly published independent report commissioned by the CQC does what they should have done in September. It is a scathing critique.


The report by Zoe Lowenthal KC describes the management responses to the three whistleblowing concerns Shyam Kumar raised which led to his dismissal as ones which are “unacceptable” and which “reflect poorly on the CQC”. https://www.cqc.org.uk/publication/listening-learning-responding-concerns/independent-review


Her report goes on to recommend a full apology to Mr Kumar and acknowledgment of his input and states:


“Mr Kumar has always acted in good faith and in the interests of patient safety, and in line with his professional duties. It is never easy to raise concerns, and it takes courage. On any view, Mr Kumar’s experiences over the past few years have been very difficult. He has felt dismissed, diminished and under-valued by CQC, and his reputation has been put at risk. There has been a personal and professional toll. CQC should provide him with a full apology for the failings identified above: i) in terms of how it communicated with him, ii) how he was treated and iii) how his concerns were (or were not) investigated and addressed”

The accompanying internal report by CQC Director Scott Durairaj is very good indeed, noting that the CQC’s response to whistleblowing concerns from health and care staff has been poor and inconsistent. It also says there is “clear evidence, during the scoping, design phase and throughout the review, of a widespread lack of competence and confidence within CQC in understanding, identifying and writing about race and racism”. https://www.cqc.org.uk/publications/listening-learning-responding-concerns/listening-learning-responding-concerns-phase-2-report


Verdict?

My experience of dealing with NHS employers inside and outside the NHS is that the absence of effective systems on whistleblowing and race has become normalised in many employers whatever the nominal policies. It is remarkable that the CQC as a regulator dealing with that 18,000 whistleblowers a year has not had such systems in place, and should they now be embedded that will be significant progress.


There is one piece of unfinished business. Mr Kumar was lied about in Tribunal and outside by people still working in the NHS in which that were an outrage. Some no longer work for the CQC but the report fudges the issue of what consequences there are for them. Such witnesses need to do more than reflect on their failings, they need to somehow be held to account.


Six months ago I wrote:

“All leaders make errors. What leaders do to prevent errors, and especially what they do when they make errors, is a good measure of their leadership qualities, especially if those errors contravene the core values of the organisation”.

Having battered the CQC for their shocking failings six months ago, this response suggests an acceptance of those failings. The public acceptance by the CQC of these two meticulous reports should be welcomed. I can think of many organisations who would have tried to bury such a report, criticise it or water it down. None of those responses have occurred.


The proof of the pudding, of course, will be in whether the CQC Board prioritises these recommendations and ensures that all its inspection teams get the message, as some clearly have not in the past. But the openness is to be welcomed as a foundation to ensure the CQC does what it expects organisations it inspects to do. Let’s see if it follows through on what Zoe Lowenthal KC and Scott Durairaj have found and recommended.

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heather-bruce
01 avr. 2023

Excellent article Roger , as usual,

thiis was shocking that it had to be settled by an ET

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