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.”
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.”