Young: I'll never work for government again after CQC woe
The former chair of the Care Quality Commission vowed never to work for government again after her experience at the regulator, the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry has heard.
Speaking about her decision to quit the CQC for the first time since she stood down in December 2009 Baroness Barbara Young, who had previously spent eight years as chief executive of the Environment Agency, said the Department of Health was “by far the worst” government department she had worked with.
She told the inquiry the DH did not see it was “admirable to set up an independent regulator and not act surprised when it acted independently” and instead would “blame the regulator” or the data when problems were uncovered at healthcare providers.
“More emollient people than me may have regarded it as part of the normal coming and going between a regulator and their parent department.
“I found it unhelpful and irksome and I was very impatient with it and so personally I think I was the wrong person for the job,” she said.
Baroness Young’s resignation was announced days after the storm broke over Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust . However, she told the inquiry she had already informed the board of her decision to step down after deciding in September she needed a new job.
She said her decision was in part due to the political interference and in part because she predicted the CQC would be squeezed as a result of the economic downturn and would have to reduce the frequency of inspections below a level she was comfortable with.
Asked by inquiry counsel Tom Kark whether she had had a phone call from government in relation to her resignation, Baroness Young said then health secretary Andy Burnham had phoned after finding out Monitor was to take regulatory action against BTUHFT at which point she told him of her decision.
She said he was “justifiably p****d off” that he had not been informed directly but found out via Sky News which had been briefed by the CQC.
Earlier in her evidence Baroness Young said she had found Mr Burnham’s predecessor Alan Johnson much easier to work as there was less political pressure, although she said most pressure from the department came from the NHS executive team.
She said: “We constantly faced the problem of who is the [DH]? Is it the secretary of state? Is it the chief executive of the NHS? Is it the permanent secretary and their team of civil servants?”
She described dealing with the DH as like an episode of the political satire The Thick of It and told the inquiry meetings between the CQC, the health secretary and NHS chief executive David Nicholson would move from a three way discussion to Sir David advising the minister on “policy and strategy”.
Asked about the CQC’s relationship with Monitor, Baroness Young accepted there had been some tension which she said stemmed from Monitor’s failure to convince ministers it should be the sole regulator of foundation trusts.
Baroness Young, who is now chief executive of Diabetes UK, was also asked about her view of the language used by the Healthcare Commission in its report on Mid Staffordshire. She said she found it “florid” and did not see the need to give specific examples such as blood being found on a curtain when releasing information about Basildon.