Using a fit a proper persons test to bar directors from the health service will put even more pressure on the Care Quality Commission, and the government should abandon the idea

Some NHS policies receive attention inversely proportional to the good they will achieve. The news the proposed fit and proper test will be used to “bar” directors of health and social care providers from further employment falls into that category.

‘The government is well practised in U-turns and we would not begrudge them one more’

The government has decided the Care Quality Commission will be the arbiters of a fit and proper person. Because the test is now linked to potentially depriving someone of their livelihood it is bound to involve significant effort on behalf of the overstretched regulator.

When the “testing” of directors begins, HSJ predicts very, very few NHS directors will fail. This will disappoint those from a wide range of interest groups who believe disagreeing with them is an indication of unfitness. The CQC will spend most of the time defending its decisions to give a board a clean bill of health and the rest in industrial tribunals. That is the last thing its slowly recovering image needs.

Zombie policy

When it is better understood that the scheme is unlikely to extend to non-board directors, commissioners or to those in system management roles at NHS England, Monitor or the Trust Development Authority, the approach will be further undermined − and the zombie policy of regulation for NHS managers will return.

Last week, the Department of Health’s own leadership standards group urged caution in implementing a barring scheme, suggesting the same result would be achieved by better use of existing disciplinary procedures. The government is well practised in U-turns and we would not begrudge them one more.

The government’s full response to the Francis report offered little new. Jeremy Hunt feels the reform of the CQC and the new scrutiny regime overseen by three chief inspectors is the most significant change of 2013. HSJ would not argue with that, but would point out that these reforms were well in train before the Francis report thudded on to the doormat