Care Quality Commission inspection teams will be able to consider all whistleblowers’ contributions, no matter when their complaint dates from, the regulator has said.
CQC chief executive David Behan has confirmed inspectors will consider “all information” they receive about a provider and this will include the contributions of any willing historical whistleblowers.
In a letter to patient campaigner Will Powell, Mr Behan, who also sent his letter to HSJ, said: “There will not be a time limit applied. We have found a number of whistleblowers and complainants have attended our recent public engagement meetings and we will endeavor to invite them.”
He said one challenge the regulator faced was that the majority of information from whistleblowers was anonymous, a factor which “can complicate responding to them, and therefore the ability to invite them to meet with us”.
“We need to continue building our work in this area to encourage greater confidence,” Mr Behan added.
Last month Mr Behan confirmed CQC inspectors would actively seek out and interview whistleblowers as part of the new tougher inspection regime brought in as a response to the Mid Staffordshire care scandal.
In his recent Mr Behan wrote: “I believe that the changes we are making to the way we work will assist in improving conditions for whistleblowers…to ideally show that whistleblowing is a last resort because the hospital’s culture itself encourages colleagues to speak openly so that the hospital can learn.”
Mr Behan also confirmed the use of “gagging clauses” would also form part of the CQC’s regulatory actions. He wrote: “Were we to receive information that a trust is attempting to use compromise agreements to prevent staff from raising concerns…we would question the provider regarding this and share this with other relevant oversight bodies.
“We would also use the information to inform our regulatory activity.”
Mr Powell’s son Robbie died in 1990, aged 10, after doctors repeatedly failed to diagnose or treat a suspected case of Addison’s disease. A jury inquest later ruled the youngster died of natural causes but that negligence played a part.
Mr Powell has joined calls for an inquiry into whistleblowing, which is also being demanded by the Patients’ First campaign group.
The CQC chief executive said any inquiry would need clear terms of reference and “would need to demonstrate it would add value to what has already been undertaken”. He said the CQC would contribute and cooperate with any inquiry.