Hospital boards will get one year to address quality failures before they are removed, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told MPs.
Addressing the Commons in response to the highly critical report into the Care Quality Commission’s role in registering University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, yesterday Mr Hunt said the regulator had been an example of the defensive culture often seen in the NHS.
The independent report, commissioned by the CQC’s chief executive David Behan when he joined last year, found evidence senior members of the organisation had tried to cover up their failure to spot concerns with maternity services at the trust’s Furness General Hospital.
Mr Hunt told the Commons that measures implemented by the government in response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry Report would help address the issues raised in the Morecambe Bay report.
In particular drew attention to the CQC’s new inspection regime. A consultation on the planned overhaul published earlier this week proposed that if an NHS trust failed to deal with quality concerns following a warning notice by the CQC, the chief inspector of hospitals will request Monitor or the NHS Trust Development Authority puts the organisation into “special measures”.
Mr Hunt revealed to the Commons there would be a “cut off” of one year for problems to be dealt with. He said this would ensure the NHS and ministers “bite the bullet” and make changes toleadership.
He said: “Under the current system when problems are identified they seem to fester on and on and on… What we will have in the new single failure regime is a system whereby when failure is identified there is a maximum period of one year before the [trust’s board] is suspended.”
Mr Hunt also told MPs plans for a new rating system overseen by the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, would give the public “vital information about leadership they don’t have at the moment”.
The independent report was anonymised before publication due to concerns that naming the individuals involved could breach the Data Protection Act. However, Mr Hunt faced numerous calls from both sides of the house for the names to be published.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham asked whether anyone from the CQC implicated in the “cover up” was still working at the CQC or the NHS. Mr Hunt said he would be receiving a report from CQC chair Mr Prior shortly on the matter, and there would be “full consideration of appropriate disciplinary procedures”.
“The whole truth must now come out and individuals must be accountable for their actions,” Mr Hunt said.