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”.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn