It is unbelievable almost to think that it is day 137 of the Mid Staffs inquiry into care at the ailing Mid Staffordshire Hospital and still new evidence is coming to light. Beginning with a legal argument, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) today started the proceedings by claiming that new evidence from two whistle blowers is not within the inquiry’s terms of reference. Whatever happened to the truth and the victims in all of this? One could argue that this defensive approach is what led to the issues in the first place.
It became clear as the day progressed that one of the key reasons for the CQC’s initial stance was the damning testimony given by one of its non executive directors, Kay Sheldon. Comments like pressure on the Board to agree otherwise they would be holding things up, that the board never voted on anything, that the board just comments or endorses papers, even a Chair telling a non executive director not to attend a board meeting supposedly due to concerns about their personal health! Today’s events make for sombre reading and I would encourage all boards and especially non executive directors of public and private organisations to take note.
Senior directors and non-executive directors have the responsibility of providing critical support, and this is fundamental to a business’s success. Failure to carry out this duty is a failure of an individual and this should not be tolerated at such senior levels. We are paid to perform a specific role and we should deliver on this. I do not think any more that the public will sympathise with senior executives, non-executive directors or directors, potentially hiding behind what could be considered as excuses like it was the norm, the culture or the size of the agenda of the board/organisation. After all, we all have a choice. We have to make issues, no matter how tricky or painful, transparent as it is only through this approach that they can be addressed and the much needed changes made! Roll on public board meetings.
If the allegation is that the CQC has a bullying culture (in the words of the Nursing Times) how can health professionals feel safe to use the NHS’s whistle blowing mechanism? The CQC is the inspection regime we look to, to assure us that our NHS is safe. They should operate to the highest degree of transparency as we rely on them to root out poor practice and maintain the reputation of the NHS. One wonders how it will now rebuild its tarnished image. I would suggest focusing on being open, honest and transparent in every aspect of business from the top down.