CQC storm: ‘Bullying culture’ may mean care scandals go undetected

A former inspector of the Care Quality Commission has described how criticism was quashed and ‘good people’ were forced to shut up or quit

Many more hospital scandals may have gone unreported under the leadership of two ex-managers named in connection with cover-up allegations at the NHS watchdog, a top former inspector warned today.

Cynthia Bower and Jill Finney presided over a “closed, bullying culture” at the Care Quality Commission, in which “criticism was not tolerated” and the concerns of staff were ignored, Dr Heather Wood told The Independent.

“Staff had no confidence in the leadership – no faith that if they raised concerns they would be listened to,” said Dr Wood. “When serious issues were raised the default setting was: ‘We have been reassured by what the Trust and Strategic Health Authority has told us.’ I would say there are questions over any assurances we’ve had,” she added.

Dr Wood, who exposed catastrophic failings at Staffordshire Hospital, lifting the lid on the biggest NHS scandal in years, left the CQC in August 2010 and was gagged from criticising the regulator.

She has spoken out in the wake of claims that Ms Bower and Ms Finney were involved in an attempt to cover up the CQC’s failure to raise the alarm at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, where as many as 16 babies may have died because of substandard care.

“Criticism was not tolerated,” Dr Wood said of the CQC under Ms Bower’s leadership. “It was a culture in which anyone who tried to question or challenge, no matter how constructively, was slapped down and warned by their manager that they weren’t being ‘corporate’.

“People either gave up, shut up, or put their heads down because there were mortgages to pay,” she said. “A lot of good people left, some forced, others because they couldn’t cope with the culture. It was a very unhealthy, closed, bullying culture.”

She said replacing specialist inspection teams with “highly bureaucratic” inspectors with no clinical expertise had led to “lightweight assessments” of hospitals.

Yesterday Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, pledged that it had been a “huge mistake” when the CQC was formed in 2009 to rely on a “generalist system of inspectors with light-touch training”.

He said the recently appointed chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, would preside over a new system of “really thorough, deep-dive inspections”, clinically led by experts with experience in hospitals. The CQC will also receive £40m extra funding to improve its inspections regime, Mr Hunt said.

Ms Bower left the CQC last September with a £1.35m pension pot, but Mr Hunt said yesterday that former executives responsible for the alleged cover-up could be stripped of their pensions,

Pressure is increasing on Ms Bower’s successor, David Behan, and the CQC’s chairman, David Prior, to explain their initial decision not to name CQC employees referred to in an independent report which made allegations of a cover-up.

The pair have been summoned to appear before the Commons Health Select Committee. Charlotte Leslie, a Conservative member of the committee, said that they had made “a massive error of judgement” by initially keeping the names secret. Officials connected to cover-up allegations – including Ms Bower and Ms Leslie – were eventually named in a letter to the Secretary of State on Thursday.

“I think we need a very full inquiry into the network of relationships between senior Department of Health officials, ministers and managers because it all looks far too cosy and I am worried that we are going to see a series of these horror stories emerge and are not going to get to the bottom of the issue,” Ms Leslie told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

Professor John Ashton, joint director of public health for Cumbria, said the problems at CQC reflected a wider malaise within the health service. “The leadership of these organisations is pre-occupied with the reputation of the organisation and isn’t focused on public good and public benefit,” he told The Independent.

Ms Bower said on Thursday: “As chief executive of the CQC the buck stops with me so I deeply regret any failings in the regulation of University Hospitals Morecambe Bay during my time in charge.” However, she denied being part of a cover-up, insisting she “gave no instruction” to delete the damning internal report. Ms Finney has also said allegations that she “instructed the deletion of the internal review” are “untrue”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition