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Dealing with failure is the true test of the CQC leadership

Leadership is tested much more fiercely in failure than it is during success. It is therefore now that we will see the true mettle of the Care Quality Commission’s new leadership.

‘Failure is a constant when leading organisations operating within complex health systems − especially healthcare regulators’

The CQC’s leadership is strong enough to earn continued support − a view shared from the health secretary to the British Medical Association. That leadership is no less strong than it was a week ago, despite the admission by CQC chair David Prior that the commission is “guilty as charged” over its handling of the investigation into the inspection of Morecambe Bay foundation trust.

In fact, it is probably useful that a little bit of the gloss has been rubbed off – expectations will be a little more realistic now.

Mr Prior’s speedy admission of guilt also marks a departure from the previous regime which − out of an understandable desire to find some breathing space − too often tried to pretend all was well.

Skeletons in the closet

Failure is a constant when leading organisations operating within complex health systems − and this is especially true with healthcare regulators. As with the secret services, your triumphs mainly go unnoticed, unremarked or attributed to others, while your slip ups end up on the front page and in front of a parliamentary committee.

The CQC’s robustness will be tested in its ability to regain control of the care quality agenda − rather than constantly reacting to another event or allegation. This will take time – and the organisation will continue to suffer reputational damage in the meantime.

This period of pain will be shortened if the CQC can reassure itself that there are no other skeletons in its closet. The commission was dysfunctional for so long − not always through reasons of its own making − that identifying and bringing these issue to light will not be easy. But the events of the past few days have proved the CQC will find it very hard to move on until it has come to terms with its past.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Wise words Alistair

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  • Hmmm… that’s one way to look at it. Another is to say the new chair and CEO of the CQC together misjudged and mismanaged their first significant challenge from start to finish. Their instinct was to protect themselves and their kind. Not great in a patient first system. Unforgivable for an alleged patient watchdog.

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  • We must hope lessons are learned, but why does so much of such learning have to be at the expense of such vulnerable patients?

    And can CQC ever overcome the effects of this failure on public confidence in their health services? Have they the capacity to change?

    It would be very destructive if this triggered yet another irrational & costly reorganisation or further political attempts to Balkanise & privatise health care.

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  • Alistair, healthcare sectors should never deal with failures but focus all its energy that it doesn't fail. We deal with fellow human beings and there is no room for failures. It is our patients who got to live with failures, errors, mistakes, complications and so on. CQC should focus on preventing errors in the first place and then have systems to identify failures early so that they can deal effectively. At present the main challenge for CQC is to regain public, patients and professionals respect and trust. Hopefully the current leadership will do so quickly.

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