Jill Finney: This is a cautionary tale for the press and politicians


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jill Finney’s story is complicated. She was alleged by investigators from Grant Thornton LLP to have wanted to suppress a critical, internal review of the CQC’s earlier inquiries into problems at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria. She denied that claim from the outset, although Grant Thornton continues to stand by its conclusions.

What muddied the waters was the disjointed way in which the details of the story came out. Not only was Ms Finney unable to properly set out her defence, but the allegations that she and two colleagues had attempted to cover up a report into the CQC became muddled with the idea that she had been trying to cover up a scandal at the hospital in Furness.

There are reminders for the media here; in particular the need to report every side of a story and to ensure that necessary simplification does not obscure accuracy.

But perhaps the most notable aspect of Ms Finney’s experience is the way in which she found herself badgered as much by politicians as by the media. This  is important because we  have heard much in recent years about the tangled  relationship between press and politics.


The farrago at the centre of which Ms Finney found herself points to another aspect of the same thing: to a circular process in which the media looks to personalise critical stories and demands action by politicians; politicians oblige by damning the actions of individuals; and the media then reports that the individual in question is under growing political  pressure. Resignations frequently follow.

Accountability is all well and good. But if those in charge of public bodies are rightly required to be answerable for the performance of their organisations, so MPs and the media should consider whether their combined hectoring may be responsible for talented people deciding not to enter a career in public service.