Dame Jo Williams, chair of the health regulator, has resigned - just days before appearing in front of MPs to explain serious allegations about her conduct in office.
Dame Williams, chair of the Care Quality Commission since 2009, is expected to face tough questions from the Health Select Committee about her role in the attempted sacking of a fellow board member during the accountability hearing.
The Independent last month revealed how Dame Williams had secretly commissioned a private psychiatric report about Kay Sheldon, the board member who whistle-blew about poor leadership and safety breaches at the CQC, and raised concerns about her mental state with the department of health.
Stephen Dorrell, chair of the Committee, told The Independent that it would be “completely inappropriate” for them not to ask questions about the allegations just because Dame Williams had stood down.
Dame Williams, who will not leave her post until a replacement is found, will appear at her hearing on Tuesday with the CQC’s new chief executive, David Behan, as the embattled regulator attempts to draw a line under a series of allegations about its competence and probity.
There have been calls for Williams’ resignation ever since it emerged that she asked the former Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, to remove Mrs Sheldon from the Board – on the day she gave evidence under oath to the Mid Staffs public inquiry.
Several MPs have told The Independent that the Dame’s position at the regulator was untenable following the latest and most serious allegations regarding Mrs Sheldon’s mental health. The CQC is supposed to set standards and act as a point of contact for NHS and social care whistle-blowers.
In a statement Dame Jo said: “It has been a demanding and complex role, and there have undoubtedly been challenges as we registered 40,000 providers and brought the entire health and social care system under one set of standards.
“But there is now clear evidence that our regulation is beginning to have an impact on the care that people receive, and it feels as if the organisation is moving into the next stage of its development.
“I am delighted that that I have been able to appoint David Behan as CQC’s new chief executive - I am confident that he will continue to build on the progress that we have made in promoting and protecting the health and safety of people who use services.
“It has been a privilege to hold this important role but I now believe it is time to step aside and for a new chair to lead CQC into the next stage.”
Sir Christopher Kelly, former permanent secretary of the Department of Health, and Andrew Dilnot, chair of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, paid tribute to her leadership.