CQC slams door on whistleblowers

To David Behan, Chief Executive Care Quality Commission,

22 October 2015

 Dear Mr Behan,

 Whistleblowers, whistleblowing governance and CQC’s recruitment process

 Further to our letter to you of 10 October we have received the attached response from Jacqueline Jackson your Head of HR Operations.

 Ms Jackson indicates that CQC restricted the pool of potential candidates to those currently employed by NHS, DH & arms length bodies because:

“From time to time, CQC may choose to advertise roles to this group first, to ensure deployment, redeployment and secondment opportunities for colleagues”.

 This does not address our concern that many exiled whistleblowers would have been excluded by CQC’s restriction.

 Neither does Ms Jackson agree to our request that CQC removes its restriction the National Set Up Guardian Post. Her letter suggests that CQC will continue in its current course, and will only remove the restriction if there is no appointment made as a result of the current process.

 It is most disappointing that CQC chooses to continue with a recruitment process that it knows will exclude proportionately more whistleblowers, despite the fact that the post in question relates to whistleblowing.

 A question arises about whether CQC’s leadership is unenthusiastic about genuine collaboration with whistleblowers.

 This much was suggested by the fact that CQC launched a “consultation” on the National Guardian Post on 17 September, after advertising the post behind the Sunday Times’ pay wall on 13 September.

 Please advise us clearly whether CQC will remove the restriction on candidates eligible for the National Guardian Set Up Manager post, and so allow exiled whistleblowers to apply.

 Please also advise why CQC advertised the National Guardian post, with a supporting position specification, before a consultation had taken place about this post.

 Yours sincerely,

 Minh Alexander

Fiona Bell

Sharmila Chowdhury

David Drew

Narinder Kapur

Gary Walker

Maha Yassaie

 cc House of Commons Health Committee

      Secretary of State for Health

      Shadow Secretary of State for Health

      Sir Robert Francis QC, CQC NED 

      Professor Louis Appleby CQC NED and Chair of CQC Regulatory Governance Committee 

Response from CQC:

27th October 2015

Dear Dr Alexander,

Your email of 22 October deals with CQC’s recruitment processes, and, specifically, the use of NHS Jobs. I am responding to you on behalf of  David Behan, Chief Executive.

We attempted to deal comprehensively with your concerns in our letter of 10 October.  Your email of 22 October nevertheless expresses a concern that CQC has imposed a restriction that excludes whistleblowers from the recruitment process.

First, as we have already made clear, the recruitment process for the appointment of the National Guardian role has been the subject of full and open competition.   Further, as we explained in our letter of 10 October, the intention is for the National Guardian to establish a secretariat on appointment.  Recruitment to those posts will, as with the National Guardian post, be by way of an open competition.

Because the National Guardian is not yet appointed, and there is a need for work to be undertaken in the interim, a temporary role has been advertised for a “start up manager” on NHS jobs.

This temporary role has been made available to staff within certain areas of the civil service and public sector, a practice which CQC and similar organisations will frequently use for short term appointments such as these.  This is because secondments can be offered that maintain continuity of service for staff, and at the same time provide a benefit in terms of development and knowledge both for CQC but also the wider public sector.  A decision could be made to widen the recruitment exercise further in the event that suitable candidates are not identified.

CQC is a public body, and its recruitment practices reflect the standards of fair and open competition applicable to the civil service and arm’s length bodies, in line with the civil service recruitment principles.

Finally, the National Guardian consultation asks for views on proposals for the scope of the role to be performed by the National Guardian, the principles underpinning it, and operational arrangements for performance of the function.  Proceeding with recruitment in parallel with the consultation means that the appointee will be able to rapidly implement the results of the consultation, and ensure that their role is shaped by its outcome.  We see no conflict between the recruitment process, which is not a matter of public consultation, and the proposals for implementation, which, quite properly, are.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Jackson

Head of HR Operations and Business Partners


Please send us your views on this response from CQC – Thank you    


EXCLUSIVE: Innocent GP suspended for six years over fraud allegations FIGHTS back

A GP falsely accused of claiming payments for “ghost patients” has demanded an investigation into how her case was handled.
Express  Sun, Jul 6, 2014 | UPDATED: 09:39, Sun, Jul 6, 2014
Doctor, GP, NHS Counter Fraud Service, National Health Service Fraud, Investigation, Primary Care Trust, Suspended, Royal College of Obstetricians, NHAfter her suspension last year, Dr Gibson plans action against NHS England [NIGEL HOWARD]

Dr Lucia Gibson was arrested in 2007 but after an 11-week trial costing £4.5million in 2009 she was cleared of all 37 charges.

The judge said he agreed with the jury’s verdicts and warned the NHS Counter Fraud Service to think “long and hard” before bringing a similar case to court.

I am an innocent doctor. The final blow to me was for them to take away the practice I had worked hard to build up

Dr Lucia Gibson

However, Dr Gibson, 51, a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and former hospital obstetrician and gynaecologist, was still suspended by both the Surrey ­Primary Care Trust and the ­General Medical Council until last year.

A General Medical Council ­panel has apologised for the length of the suspension and acknowledged the way she had been treated was a “manifest injustice”.

Yesterday Dr Gibson, a mother of one from Weybridge, Surrey, said: “There needs to be an independent health ­service investigation of my case into how the allegations of fraud even came to court and the cost and length of my ­suspension.”

She said she spent £180,000 on legal fees to clear her name.

While she was suspended it is believed the Primary Care Trust racked up a bill of £3million pounds paying for two agency locum GPs to run her surgery at a cost of up to £250,000 a year per doctor.

The costs of a series of High Court cases over her right to ­practise and disciplinary hearings have added up to another ­£1million of taxpayers’ money.

Last year, just as she won back her right to practise, Dr Gibson says NHS England South took away her practice, which she had been at since 2003, and handed it to another doctor.

Dr Gibson, who is now back at work, said: “I am an innocent doctor. The final blow to me was for them to take away the practice I had worked hard to build up.

“I had loyal patients who stayed with the practice throughout my suspension even though they ­complained that the service from the locums wasn’t as good.”

She is now considering legal action because of the way she says her practice was “stolen”.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Throughout this affair we have put patient safety and the need for absolute confidence in the ability of people working for the NHS at the centre of everything that we have done.”

A spokesman for NHS Protect, which has taken over the work of the NHS Counter Fraud Service, said: “This particular matter is related to very serious allegations of the falsification of large ­numbers of patient records for financial gain.”

NHS Whistleblower invited to ‘Local Heroes’ event

EDBy Sharmila Chowdhury 18 January 2015

On Wednesday 14th January 2015, I was invited as a guest by my local Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate, Rupa Huq, as being recognized as a local hero. This was alongside another hero from Ealing, Audrey  Jones. The reception was hosted by Ed Miliband at Westminster.

I was allowed a guest. I naturally took Fiona Bell. Well, who else?  Maybe Minh Alexander or Martyn Halle? As we waited for Rupa, at Westminster tube, we saw none other than the very distinguished, Sir Robert Francis QC, who many will know is undertaking review on NHS whistleblowing. The report was scheduled for December. However, we are still waiting.

Sir Francis was surprised to see us and asked if we were waiting for him. To which we replied ‘No’  and Fiona added, ‘but we’re waiting for the report’.  Sir Francis replied, ‘Aren’t we all!’ So, is the report done but the hold up is at Hunt’s end?  Possibly.  Thinking about it, maybe Hunt is the very person who Sir Francis may have gone to visit – after all Sir Francis’ office is not based at Westminster.  However, we can only speculate.

Back to the local heroes event. We queued and got checked in. The gathering was very relaxed and welcoming.  Various MPs had invited heroes from their constituency. To my knowledge this is the first time a whistleblower has been recognized formally as a ‘hero’ instead of being labelled as a ‘troublemaker’, snitch’ or something worse. In most instances ignored by governing bodies.

This is a step forward for NHS whistleblowing. It’s not a party political matter as far as I am concerned. It’s time for all MPs to recognise their  local NHS whistleblowers as ‘heroes’, so it’s something that is acknowledged and valued and not something that is a punishable offence,  as is currently the case.

Whilst whistleblowers are persecuted,  it sends a warning example to other staff. As a result  patients lives are placed at risk as staff who would otherwise report wrongdoings/concerns remain silent, so compromising patient/staff safety.

photo 4In my case I reported fraud. Despite evidence, governing bodies have ignored both my concerns and my treatment as a whisleblower.  £5bn a year is lost to NHS fraud. Yet, it seems there is no interest to investigate. 





I also received the lovely message below:

Dear Shamila,
Thank you for joining us last night to celebrate the enormous contribution you and people like you make to your communities. We were honoured to be given the opportunity to meet you and hear about the amazing things you are doing and we hoped you enjoyed it as much as we did.
As Ed Miliband said, you are role models to your local community- and to the whole nation.
Thank you again for coming and sharing your stories with us.
Kind regards,Thomas

It’s time for change. I hope this is a start of many NHS whistleblowers ‘heroes’ who should be recognised for the personal sacrifices they have made in order to protect patients and the public.


Time for recognition. Time also for understanding of how whistleblowing goes wrong, and what the system should  do differently in the future. All of Westminster needs to genuinely engage with the whistleblowing agenda, and prioritise better governance for the good of the public. Above all, what we need is practical action, and that is what I campaign for.

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Patients First – Kim Holt and Roger Kline

Patients First- how we got here & what next? 

When PF first got together, we were intending to legally challenge some Trusts, ( and the CQC)!, with regards to the lack of adherence to good whistleblowing practice. We were already aware at that stage of a number of cases that were worrying us. These included Sharmila’s. Our concern about the CQC was whether they responded appropriately to whistleblowers, ensuring patients were safe. They didn’t at that time.

What happened immediately was that the campaigning side grew an energy of its own, more people contacted us, an informal network developed and before we knew it we were being asked for our opinion on whistleblowing. Our first objective was to raise general awareness of the challenges that whistleblowers face, and to have some cases presented to the Health Select Committee. We have achieved both.

We anticipated that the Francis report into the poor care experienced by too many at Stafford Hospital, especially the elderly would highlight the cultural problems that plague our health service. It did, but disappointingly not strongly enough.

 There are numerous staff surveys  http://www.nhsstaffsurveys.com/Page/1010/Home/Staff-Survey-2013  as well as reports on individual trusts – notably by the CQC and the Keogh review on 14 Trusts  http://www.nhs.uk/nhsengland/bruce-keogh-review/documents/outcomes/keogh-review-final-report.pdf    that demonstrate a real culture of blame and fear. The learning culture as aspired to by Berwick https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226703/Berwick_Report.pdf is still a distant dream for too many.

Patients First has given advice to many whistleblowers but we know this is just a tiny proportion of the staff who have spoken out and not been listened to or, worse, been victimised for doing so.

 We published The Life Cycle of the whistleblower, based on our own files. http://www.patientsfirst.org.uk/?p=806 and that evidence complemented academic research http://www.pcaw.org.uk/whistleblowing-the-inside-story highlighting the risks to staff who do.

Despite a lot of rhetoric and much more awareness of the problem with our current culture there is as yet no system wide improvement to the support for staff raising concerns .

We understand the problem as being a tendency to ignore issues until either a very loud noise is made or something tragic happens, when there is a mad panic to clean things up and sadly too often a temptation to cover up.

 We have made a number of specific proposals. Some have been adopted – one  proposal for example, is that when the CQC inspects they should talk to some whistleblowers to find out what has happened to them. How that will shift the culture & be linked to inspections remains to be tested.

But other proposals as a constructive proposal we made for An Early Intervention Scheme, appear to have kicked into the long grass by the Department of Health. Do the DH care enough to get this right?

 Ministers and employers remain in denial about the scale or significance of the problem and are prone to downplaying both. But for patients – and staff who whistleblow – this remains a fundamentally important issue.

No NHS Constitution or whistleblowing policy will stop the violation of human rights happening to caring staff such as Sharmila and Professor Jesudason. There is still a lot of work to do which is why we have called on the Sec of State to hold a public inquiry into whistleblowing. We believe that hoping things will all be ok is not good enough for our society.

We as leaders of Patients First have been astounded by the strength of feeling and commitment that campaigners are showing to changing the culture. We are preparing to move on to the next stage & pass on to a new team who can further develop the organisation into one which is sustainable. What we have achieved as a small group of campaigners has shocked ourselves, but it shows the power of the truth and hopefully can give people heart that not everyone wants to hide things. There are some genuine people out there.

We wish we could have stopped the bullying and sacking of whistleblowers, but sadly that campaign still needs to go on.

Kim Holt




Staff sacking and Suspensions over poor elderly care

Secret filming by BBC Panorama shows some residents being taunted, roughly handled and one being slapped

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One staff member has been sacked and seven suspended from one of England’s largest care homes after an undercover probe by BBC Panorama found poor care.

The filming at the Old Deanery in Essex showed some residents being taunted, roughly handled and one was slapped.

The home said it was “shocked and saddened by the allegations”.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) figures seen by the BBC show over a third of homes that received warning notices in 2011 still do not meet basic standards.

Allegations of poor care and mistreatment at the 93-bed home in Braintree, where residents pay roughly £700 per week, were first raised by 11 whistleblowers in August 2012.

Essex County Council put it on special measures for three months until concerns were addressed.

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