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Care Quality Commission defends Cynthia Bower

The Care Quality Commission has defended the appointment of its chief executive Cynthia Bower after the Conservatives called for an independent inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire foundation trust scandal.

Ms Bower was chief executive of NHS West Midlands during the period that Stafford Hospital was providing standards of emergency care branded “appalling” by the now defunct Healthcare Commission.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said this provided “a very poor basis for Cynthia Bower to be given her new job as the head of the independent health regulator.”

He added: “It is a role that is critical in ensuring patients across the country are cared for safely.

“It is impossible for us to have confidence in Cynthia Bower’s ability to perform adequately in this new role unless and until we have an independent inquiry into what went wrong at Stafford Hospital.”

The comments will prompt questions over the relationship between the Conservative Party and Ms Bower if Labour loses the next general election.

The CQC issued a statement saying: “No-one is more passionate about delivering quality services than Cynthia Bower.

“She has years of experience in both health and social care. She knows both sectors like the back of her hand.  She is perfectly placed to lead our drive to improve services on behalf of patients and the public.”

SHA response

NHS West Midlands also responded to the Tories’ criticism that the strategic health authority consulted coding experts rather than doctors and nurses after being alerted to high mortality rates at the trust.

A spokeswoman said: “It is categorically untrue that the board of NHS West Midlands did not take seriously reports of higher than average death rates at Mid Staffordshire hospital. 

“We also completely refute the suggestion that we did nothing to respond to this.”

The board discussed the figures in public and with the hospital, commissioning an in-depth study as soon as it became aware that the trust had higher than expected death rates, the spokeswoman said.

Independent experts reviewed patients’ health records and concluded that claims regarding the link between variations in mortality rates and differences in the quality of care were “less than credible”.

Department of Health

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The report makes no criticism of the strategic health authority.

“However, one of the investigations ordered by the secretary of state is into the role of all the health organisations in the area.

“The secretary of state told the Commons he has full confidence in the Care Quality Commission.”

Readers' comments (12)

  • From a point of view of Governance, this questions the ineffective role of the SHA to performance manage 'Trusts on their patch, The vision of SHA's is to improve the health of the population in the SHA area, not so in the Mid Staff area. Of course there will be no Public Inquiry as both the current CEO of the NHS and CQC would need to answer some difficult questions in their roles at the time of the Mid Staff scandal.
    Accountibility to patients and public is not achieved by holding non senistive papers of the trust board in part II of the trust board meeting, which unforately is increasing with Foundation Status, this needs to end.

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  • In terms of Governance and performance management, The SHA failed the population that it serves, its vision is to improve the health of the population. At the time of the Mid Staff scandal, both the current CEO of the NHS and CQC held senior posts in the Midlands, It does not take much working out in that case why there will be no public Inquiry.

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  • This is symptomatic of the approach in recruiting within the NHS! there is a saying that you are only as good as your last job! she obviously wasnt good at her last job, so lets promote her.

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  • This is not a party political issue, it is an issue about the bizarre NHS bureaucracy. As head of NHS West Midlands, where was Ms Bower in ensuring her region delivered a quality healthcare service?

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  • Its hardly surprising that they (CQC)support her, this is now a political issue and the "politically appointed" Chair, will of course, not rock the boat.

    Yet another example of how in parts of the the NHS, "nothing succeeds like failure". The more Senior the person, the more apalling the misjudgement and errors they can get away with.

    As a minimum, she should stand down from her new post until after a proper
    inquiry has taken place - but I will not hold my breath.

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  • It just reaffirms my view that the present set up will not work if it continues in the old mould. The previous Health Care Commission (and a predecessor the Health Advisory Service) overcomplicated measurement and become self serving bureaucracies, staffed by inexperienced or poor managers. The HCC was in fact is worse as it adopted a tabloid like approach when problems were identified, usually by others.
    Cynthia Bower is an excellent manager and this experience should only strengthen her resolve to implement a proper system of governance. Give her time.

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  • Well, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been set up to delivering quality services within the NHS & Social Care. Now it's appointed Ms Cynthia Bower chief executive of NHS West Midlands during the period that Stafford Hospital was providing standards of emergency care branded “appalling”. If Ms Bower can not ensure that there are quality services at Stafford Hospital, then she can do it with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

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  • I wonder why nobody has questioned the role that the HCC played here. They were the body repsonsible for assessing and monitoring quality of care. They had assessed Mid Staffs as good, even while their investigation was ongoing. What is that about? Their report states the issues had been going on for years so why hadn't they picked it up? Who holds the regulators to account? And I mean both HCC adn Monitor here who both had a role in Mid staffs.

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  • Well lets be honest there just seems to be a slight sense of a whitewash doesn't there......the old boy network which has been corrupt for centries and still happens to be alive and kicking just tries to spin itself out of yet another debacle...the Conservatives have said it right.

    I assure you all you haven't seen anything yet....this happened on Cynthia's watch or should I say blindeye and then Iv'e always been saying isn't it just a bit peculiar that a former SHA CEO becomes the CEO of this so called Independent Care Quality Commision....just sounds like a slight uMMM CONFLICT OF INTEREST!

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  • There's a lot of mud being thrown at Cynthia Boywer and the SHA. While I'm not over fond of SHAs, one has to question what the Healthcare Commission were doing for all those years. Isn't it interesting that the HCC webpage for Mid Staffs disappeared for a while and has now need changed?

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  • These dreadful events in s Staffs occurred while the HCC was the regulator (not the SHA) - are they simply trying to shift the blame to someone else? Or is this about the HCC demonstrating the Monitor isn't up to the job? Or just that they are so good that they shouldn't have been replaced by the CQC? This all looks like power games / retaliation at the top. It is sickening that patients and front-line staff at NHS hospitals are regarded simply as tokens in a game.

    Anyone who knows Cynthia Bower knows she is not interested in this stuff but is motivated to cut through the red tape and improve services for patients. The thought that she is part of an old boy network could not be further from the truth. If she had been, she would have risen faster and further in NHS management and been a Dame by now.

    At the CQC she will be a fearless regulator, outside the tottering bureaucracy of the NHS and I bet her record will stand comparison with the HCC. I expect this will not win her many friends but she will do it anyway. The supposition by the opposition that this is a party political appointment is laughable.

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  • Why do we persist in thinking that bodies set up by any government and its departments could ever be independent? Is the CQC likely to criticise the ultimate source of funding for the NHS and its effector bodies such as hospitals ie. the goverment, its departments and its ministers? Sometimes this could be the source of the problem. I believe that we really need an independent surveying and accreditation body similar to the Joint Commission International in the USA, Accreditation Canada, or the ACHSI in Australia, which are all truly independent of government, and can therefore not only "microcriticise" (the hospitals and their staff, for example) but "macrocritiscise" (e.g. inadequate funding, poor central policy decision making and prioritisation etc.). Bodies such as the Trent Accreditation Scheme and HQA already exist in the UK, and yet the Department of Health does not seem to look at this approach - I wonder why? To quote Lord Darzi, "...The department is, of course, in regular dialogue with the Care Quality Commission and discusses issues and matters of concern with it as part of the department's ongoing sponsorship relationship with the regulator" - this sponsorship relationship does not imply complete independence!

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