Failure of Care Quality Commission to make sure NHS employs ‘fit and proper’ directors
A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report published yesterday revealed significant weaknesses in the way the Care Quality Commission (CQC) used the NHS ‘fit and proper’ person test.
The Ombudsman carried out an independent investigation into a whistle-blower’s complaint about the CQC’s oversight of the appointment of a Chief Executive to an NHS trust. Despite being criticised by an Employment Tribunal, the Chief Executive was employed by another NHS trust, while the whistle-blower, Clare Sardari, was unable to return to her job as a result of raising the alarm.
The Employment Tribunal found that the NHS trust prevented Ms Sardari from returning to her job after she raised a genuine concern about the Chief Executive’s misconduct. The Chief Executive also breached the NHS code of conduct for managers as well as the Trust’s recruitment and selection policy. This important evidence was disregarded by the CQC in their assessment of whether the second NHS trust made a reasonable decision about whether the Chief Executive was a ‘fit and proper’ person.
The Ombudsman found that, in this case, the CQC’s record-keeping was poor and it did not adequately weigh up the evidence, instead relying on the Chief Executive’s apology, their references, and a Professional Regulator’s report which did not address the main issue of serious misconduct.
The Ombudsman’s report concluded that the CQC lacked rigour in its regulation of the appointment of NHS directors and had failed to take a transparent and proportionate approach.
Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, yesterday said:
This case shows that CQC’s approach to making sure NHS trusts are employing the right people at director-level needs reviewing.
‘The public and NHS staff must have confidence that NHS leaders are fit and proper to do the job and that whistle-blowers will not be penalised for raising concerns.
‘We need fair, transparent and proportionate oversight that stops leaders who have committed serious misconduct from moving around the NHS, and makes them accountable for their actions.’
Ms Sardari brought the case to the Ombudsman after the CQC failed to fully consider the Employment Tribunal judgement from 2014, which found she was unfairly penalised due to whistle-blower suppression. She felt the CQC’s application of the Fit and Proper Persons Requirement (FPPR) diminished the seriousness of the Chief Executive’s conduct and sent a strong message that those who victimise whistle-blowers will escape accountability.
Clare Sardari, the whistle-blower, yesterday said:
The reprisals against me and the inadequate investigation into my concerns by my former NHS trust and the Chief Executive were devastating for me and my family. The CQC acted dishonourably by trivialising whistle-blower retaliation in its handling of my case.
‘Accountability is vital to protect the public interest. The government must ensure that serious reprisal against a whistle-blower is a red line in the fit and proper person test for NHS directors, no ifs or buts.’
The Ombudsman recommended that the CQC formally apologises to Ms Sardari and offers £500 to her in recognition of the injustice and distress that their actions have caused her.
The Ombudsman has asked the CQC to review the learning from this case and report back on the improvements made to demonstrate rigour in future FPPR considerations.
The ‘Fit and Proper Persons Requirement’ requires NHS providers to ensure that their directors are fit and proper to carry out their duties. One of its aims is to make sure that directors who have committed serious misconduct cannot move around the NHS.
Notes to Editors:
- The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman provides an independent and impartial complaint handling service for complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments. We look into complaints where someone believes there has been injustice or hardship because an organisation has not acted properly or has given a poor service and not put things right. We share findings from our casework to help Parliament scrutinise public service providers and to help drive improvements in public services and complaint handling.
- The CQC regulates NHS trusts’ handling of the FPPR and can issue requirement and enforcement notices but is unable to prosecute NHS trusts.
- Ombudsman's press office contact details:
- Sally Brown, Email: Sally.Brown@ombudsman.org.uk Tel: 0300 061 4144
- Kate Minton, Email: Kate.Minton@ombudsman.org.uk Tel: 0300 061 4129
- Out of office hours Email: email@example.com Tel: 0300 061 4444
Latest News from
Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill laid in Parliament05/12/2016 12:37:21
A new complaints body will provide the public with greater confidence that their voices have been heard.
Medway Council criticised for not reviewing school transport policy properly16/05/2019 16:10:00
Medway Council has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for failing to review its home to school transport policy following an earlier complaint.
Vulnerable man put at risk because of safeguarding failings by Wirral council10/05/2019 14:15:00
A vulnerable man remained at risk from poor care for more than 18 months, despite Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council being alerted to problems, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Maidstone council tried to charge for reviewing housing application decisions09/05/2019 14:15:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has uncovered an unusual charging policy during an investigation into a housing complaint about Maidstone Borough Council.
Ombudsman responds to new Ministry guidance for councils08/05/2019 13:38:00
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has welcomed the publication of new guidance for councils on scrutiny by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Lancashire County Council criticised for failing to support vulnerable children properly03/05/2019 09:15:00
Lancashire County Council has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for not providing the right support for two vulnerable siblings when they moved to live with their aunt and uncle.
City council to review transport policy for adults with special educational needs following Ombudsman investigation02/05/2019 14:15:00
A Birmingham mother had to drive five hours a day to take her adult son, who had ‘severe and critical needs’, to his specialist college, because Birmingham City Council did not provide him with transport, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Cornwall Council takes more than a decade to decide village green application26/04/2019 11:15:00
Cornwall Council has taken more than 11 years to determine a man’s village green application, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Mother of murder victim failed by probation provider, Ombudsman finds25/04/2019 15:38:00
A grieving family was let down by Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) due to a number of failings after the tragic murder of their son and brother Adrian Munday, an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found.