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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.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Unfortunately the mid staffordshire enquiry will be a legacy for all of us and it is disappointing to read further examples of blame and denial

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  • Basildon is still a hospital with quality issues. I fail to understand why 'blood on the curtain' is seen as 'florid'. Get real Baroness Young - it is a statement of fact. Go see for yourself.

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  • The reality is that anyone who has had any involvement with any government department is left feeling totally frustrated by the experience. You can leave a meeting confident that an agreement has been reached on the way forward only to find that you must have been at a totally different meeting. This has nothing to do with the politicians because they don't really run the country!

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  • no doubt at all about the DH being dysfunctional, but the CQC under Babs Young...

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  • CQC was a mess from the start and is still a mess.

    More time was spent reorganising than doing work.

    People were slotted into jobs during transition from the Healthcare Commission / CSCI/MHAC into CQC simply based simply on job titles and not what they actually did.

    Long standing teams were seperated with the loss of knowledge and expertise.

    In the meantime the standards of care the CQC was supposed to defend kept sliding.

    Why havn't the current chaor and CE resigned over the serious falilings over Winterborne View when Lady Young went over something that essentially happned not under her watch.

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  • Whilst I sympathise with the points made in this article, I question how constructive such comments can be given the fact that the NHS is fundamentally, a public body. There will always be involvement with politicians and politicians by their nature will always be political.
    It is honourable for Babs to suggest she wasn't right for the job. However I find this kind of undirected, unconstructive negativity about staff who are no longer in post considerably lacking in leadership and displays a kind of self-involved post-trauma that is quite contrary to the greater good attitude required in positions like hers.

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  • The comments of Baronness Young are very revealing, as they go to the heart of the power politics of people at DH, and their relationships with others.

    The CQC was always going to find it difficult to re-adjust to all the changes imposed upon it, and the speed at which they have come. The ink is hardly dry before the next merger/change/addition takes place. CHIMP to CHI to CHAI to HCC to CQC, adding dentistry this year and GPs next year. No wonder they have been struggling to keep up. I am surprised that they have managed to keep their eye on the ball at all.

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