CQC is failing to act on claims of poor care, say NHS whistleblowers

NHS whistleblowers are being fired, gagged and blacklisted, say campaigners 

NHS whistleblowers face being dismissed, gagged and blacklisted while their claims go uninvestigated because the healthcare regulator lacks teeth, says a group of staff and patients.

The grouping has criticised the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was for being of ‘low value’ and is calling for radical change in how the heath service is regulated.

In a letter to The Times, a group of 13 whistleblowers said the CQC has failed to detect poor care and governance since it replaced the Healthcare Commission in 2009. The letter cites the example of an inspection of a foundation trust cost that £273,908 but failed to spot there had been hundreds of uninvestigated deaths.

Deep frustration

‘The CQC protests that it has no powers to investigate individual cases,’ the letter states. ‘Many patients, bereaved relatives and whistleblowers are deeply frustrated that disclosures to the CQC have not resulted in change. On the contrary, if NHS staff whistleblow they may still be fired, gagged and blacklisted.’

Julie Bailey, who set up campaign group Cure the NHS after witnessing her mother’s poor care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, signed the letter with 13 others. They include anaesthetist Stephen Bolsin, who revealed failings at Bristol Royal Infirmary’s paediatric cardiac unit, and Kim Holt, a paediatrician who exposed staff shortages at the clinic where the abuse of Peter Connolly – known as Baby P – went undetected.

‘They know what’s happening’

Dr Holt told The Times: ‘It’s very frustrating because I feel like the CQC have got all the information. They know what’s happening.

‘They sit and listen and nod their heads and say, ‘That’s dreadful’, but then they don’t do anything about it. Whistleblowers I sat alongside in meetings at the CQC have since lost their jobs.’

In July, the CQC appointed Henrietta Hughes, a GP and the NHS England medical director for the north, central and east London regions, as ‘national guardian for speaking up freely and safely’ in the NHS.

She replaced Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse Dame Eileen Sills, who stepped down in March, just two months after being appointed in January. Dame Eileen cited the difficulties of combining the role with her job as chief nurse.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: ‘The CQC takes concerns raised by staff extremely seriously and we act where appropriate, whether carrying out or bringing forward an inspection, raising concerns with the provider, or alerting another organisation, including the police.’

Further information

CPD article: Raising concerns and reporting poor care in practice

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