10 Oct 2015
Subject: Whistleblowers, whistleblowing governance and CQC’s recruitment process
To Mr David Behan Chief Executive Care Quality Commission, 10 October 2015
Dear Mr Behan,
Whistleblowers, whistleblowing governance and CQC’s recruitment process
We would like to express our increasing concern at CQC’s recent recruitment approach to key positions that relate to national whistle blowing governance.
Firstly, CQC advertised for the National Freedom to Speak Up Guardian post behind the pay wall of the Sunday Times and it gave a very short deadline for applications. This is not reassuring evidence of openness and inclusiveness, or a desire to find the most suitable candidate. 
Secondly, CQC has now advertised for a support post, a “National Guardian Set Up Manager”, but CQC has specifically excluded those not currently employed by the NHS, the Department of Health or the Department of Health’s arm length bodies. 
This will clearly exclude many whistleblowers who have been exiled by the NHS and central bodies, despite the fact that many will have precisely the relevant experience and expertise on the core issues.
This seems at odds to good practice principles 12 and 20 of Sir Robert Francis’ report of the Freedom to Speak Up Review:
Support to find alternative employment in the NHS: Where a NHS worker who has raised a concern cannot, as a result, continue in their current employment, the NHS should fulfil its moral obligation to offer support.”
Legal protection should be enhanced
Action 20.1: The Government should, having regard to the material contained in this report, again review the protection afforded to those who make protected disclosures, with a view to including discrimination in recruitment by employers (other than those to whom the disclosure relates) on grounds of having made that disclosure as a breach of either the Employment Rights Act 1996 or the Equality Act 2010.”
Indeed such was the scandal of exiled whistleblowers, and the huge waste of personnel resource revealed by Sir Robert’s report, that the government announced its intention to deliver legislation to outlaw the blacklisting of whistleblowers by the end of the last parliament.
As the lead health and social care regulator, CQC can reasonably be expected to model good practice. However, we feel that CQC has failed to do so in its recent recruitment approach to the National Guardian and the National Guardian Set Up Manager posts.
Despite parliament’s wishes, there has still been no practical redress for whistleblowers whose lives have been ruined. Staff who have raised concerns are even today suspended, disciplined and dismissed. People are still suffering the nightmare of lost homes and health, the despair of relying on food banks and the immense stress of persistent uncertainty about the future. These are the realities of NHS black listing.
If CQC does not model good practice in supporting whistleblowers and if it arguably helps to compound their marginalisation, what message does this send to the organisations that CQC regulates?
We ask that CQC reviews its exclusion criteria and that in future it does not disadvantage whistleblowers in its employment processes. Ideally, we would prefer that CQC removes its requirement that the National Guardian Set Up Manager can only be appointed from amongst those currently employed by the NHS, DH and DH arms length bodies.
Patients’ lives depend on genuine action to end the culture of whistleblower persecution.
cc House of Commons Health Committee
Secretary of State for Health
Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Sir Robert Francis CQC NED