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Exclusive: Chief inspector of hospitals revealed

Former cancer tsar Sir Mike Richards has been appointed as the first chief inspector of hospitals.

The chief inspector and his team will sit within the Care Quality Commission and will lead the use of new powers to place trusts in a failure regime in response to care failures.

Sir Mike is currently director of improving mortality at NHS England. He was previously national cancer director for 12 years.

Sir Mike Richards

Sir Mike Richards will “champion the interests of patients”

One source told HSJ: “The decision was taken that it should be a clinician in the role and that that is what would work best alongside [CQC chief executive] David Behan, who is a manager.”

The post was created by the government in response to the findings of the Francis report into care failings at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. It will be a highly prominent role.

David Cameron said in February the role would be to ensure “a hospital is clean, safe and caring, rather than just an exercise in bureaucratic box-ticking”.

The job advert for the role said the chief inspector will “champion the interests of patients and make critical judgements about the quality of care provided.”

It adds: “The new chief inspector of hospitals will be a senior figure who will inspire the trust and confidence of the public, and who will have immediate credibility across the clinical professions.

“This is a public-facing role and the chief inspector must have the professional standing to be persuasive to the Secretary of State, clinical professions, and the public.

“Most of all, the chief inspector must have a reputation for putting the interests of patients first, and provide an honest and independent assessment of how well or badly hospitals serve their patients.”

The appointment was welcomed by CQC chair David Prior and chief executive David Behan.

Jeremy Hunt said: “Identifying our best and worst hospitals is an incredibly challenging job. Mike brings to this role a wealth of experience in the best practice of patient care, and he will be exceptional at carrying the confidence of the public and the medical profession.”

The move was also welcomed by two of the most senior clinical leaders working with the NHS.

Professor the Lord Darzi said: “Mike Richards is an outstanding choice. He will have the full support and confidence of clinicians. He has an international reputation as an oncologist and has done more than anyone to improve cancer treatment in the UK.”

Professor Don Berwick, senior fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, who is chairing the government’s patient safety committee, said: “It is crucial to the success of the chief inspector of hospitals that the Inspector be trusted by clinical leaders, staff, and managers throughout the NHS. Mike Richards perfectly fits that bill; he is ideally equipped by background, achievements, and personality to engender trust between managers and clinicians.”

Readers' comments (18)

  • Well, Twitter has been on overdrive but little on this website. I'd like to add my congratulations, and support all the positive comments I've seen - though definitely a loss for NHSE. Good luck Mike.

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  • drat, i should have applied.... i dont have any inspection, legal, or policing experience either

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  • John de Braux

    If we have to have an inspector of hospitals I can't think of anyone who would do the job as well. Congratulations Mike.

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  • To the anonymous poster who said "drat i should have applied", Its a shame in our now post francis candid, whistleblowing and transparent NHS that you don't feel able to say who you are when commenting.

    As for your comment, Mike Richards has been for many years a massively effective operator at a senior level in the DH who has done a huge amount to improve end of life care and the care for people with cancer. I don't know anyone who has worked with him who has a bad word to say about him and he has instant credibility.

    Does he have a background in regulation or inspection or policing? No. But then nor does the chief inspector of schools, nor have several very effective chief inspectors of prisons, nor have many of those who run other national regulators. And the CQC until the recent change of leadership (David Behan is an excellent appointment who has just the right skills and background) hadn't been notably succesful so i am not sure that previous form with them was a guarantee of competence.

    What we need in a chief inspector more than anything else is someone steeped in healthcare, who understands the needs of patients and alsthe pressures on frontline clinicians. Sir Mike has that.

    I think the bigger story is why so many people have either left NHS England early (Richard Gleave and Mike Richards were two of the five domain leads and both have gone, as have Easton and Dalton) or decided not to move to it (many of the former DH tsars - myself included, didn't apply for their old jobs in the new structure) - because they realise what a challenging ennvironment and time it might be. A better target for criticism might be how many senior leaders in NHS England (no longer called the "commissioning board") have commissioning experience

    David Oliver

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  • Matt James

    That's an excellent appointment, great news for patients, hospitals and the CQC. Very few people are as well-respected as Mike Richards, and I'm sure he will balance the need to be forensic and determined in maintaining standards with a proper understanding of realities, capabilities and culture within the NHS. Well done to all involved.

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  • I too think it is an excellent appointment. Will the 'system' allow the CIH to make a difference? Well, we will see; but I suspect the big difference is, this man will walk if it doesn't.

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  • good appointment

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  • Ed Macalister-Smith

    A good appointment.

    Mike will need courage and a thick skin - the recent Leeds cardiac suspension is exactly the kind of assertive action that will be needed, and there are plenty more where that came from.

    We need to get rapidly to a point where action from the Chief Inspector is responded to openly and positively by the NHS, not negatively and defensively - so, rather like the aviation regulator. And the Chief Inspector should be willing to err in favour of patient interests, not organisational reputation. All our reputations get damaged when something goes wrong and it is not sorted immediately.

    Good luck!

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  • I only use the anonymous post because I am not sure what NHS England would make of an employee posting their personal views in work time (albeit at lunch time). I work at area level and am very concerned about the many changes in key personnel at what is now referred to as the national support centre at Leeds, NHS England. It isn't yet properly functioning as a single organisation. Also David Nicholson has resigned and there doesn't seem to be an obvious replacement who has the confidence of the clinicians and those managers who weren't one of the 10,000 made redundant as a result of this change

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  • Anon 12.40pm You used the (publicly at least) wrong R word of DN's planned change of circumstances - much like Hugh Edwards did on the 10 o'clock news!

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  • Sir Mike obviously decided that the mortality rate at NHS England was beyond even his considerable skill. Another one bites the dust!

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  • Dear Anon 12:40 pm, you are very wise to keep your anonymity and not to fall for the "whistleblowers are protected" yarn. This is from personal experience.

    As for the appointment, not doubt the appointee has excellent credentials. Nonetheless, when we appoint even a junior receptionist at our practice, we have to adhere to strict employment regulations, or we are taken to the cleaners. I wonder if the same applies to senior NHS posts. Perhaps, Ben Clover might be able to throw some light.

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  • Hello Kosta.
    I know what you mean. The ad appeared on the CQC website in April and is here
    I assume he applied and was shortlisted and went through a process same as with most jobs.
    There's a very convoluted process for senior NHS jobs because of all the people at risk and there were all sorts of hoops like jobs for X type people can't yet be advertised because people at risk in Y can't apply yet because the formal redundancy notices haven't been posted yet but we can't not let them apply because of employment law ...... etc etc etc. HR has been a shambles. I think Penna did our local CCGs and Hays the area team (i.e. recruitment agencies). But the emails that went out notifying you what job was going when and where weren't always up to date, had mad deadlines.... I went past conspiracy theories with shoe-ins for favourites to total unmitigated chaos not being overseen by anybody. The only advantage some had was if you knew someone who wanted to appoint you, they would try and make sure the HR stuff was done, but even with the best will in the world it was an utter shambles. Worst reorg ever and I've been though 9.

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  • Thank you Anon 12:41 PM. Maybe, the chaos you describe is not unintentional, but designed by those who have been appointed, of have appointed themselves, the guardians of OUR NHS. I wonder, if it is time to clean up the Augean Stables.

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  • Neil Goodwin

    A superlative choice. Mike Richards has the track record of operating at the interface of government and the NHS, excellent knowledge and intellect, and equally importantly, the right style to make this role work for the benefit of patients and the NHS.

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  • Mike is a first class doctor, but what do doctors know about how care is delivered day in day out? It should have been a senior nurse. Only nurses are there 24/7 with patients, and only a nurse brave enough to speak out can go find the skeletons in the cupboards. A missed opportunity, and I predict a lot of noise and not much changing. Oh and support for whistleblowers in the NHS? Why do you think I've posted anon?

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  • Only nurses are with patients 24/7. I agree and I work with superb nurses day in day out and have nothing but respect for them. However, your average ward based staff nurse or ward sister wouldnt be in the frame for chief inspector of hospital - rather a director of nursing who hadnt worked a night shift for two decades. So i think we need to make sure that hands on nurses are key people on inspection teams. But i dont want someone with the title of nurse who never looks after patients in the CI roe. Better to have a clinician who actually works on the frontline and not in an office

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  • Congrats on a great appointment. A Clinical Leader with credibility, experience and one who has evidenced information of his teams delivery over a sustained period of time. Best wishes Mike

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