Fears over breaching data protection laws prevented Care Quality Commission employees from being named in the “damning” report of the regulation of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation, the organisation has said.
The CQC registered the trust and said it was fully compliant with standards in 2010, despite the then recent deaths of six babies at the trust’s Furness General Hospital’s maternity unit. The regulator’s chief executive David Behan commissioned Grant Thornton to investigate the situation soon after taking up the post last year.
It was published today, detailing the CQC’s failings and attempts to cover them up.
However, in some parts of the 320 page report individuals are referred to only by their job title, while in others, particularly the section dealing with the suppression of an internal report, they have been anonymised and instead referred to as Mr F or Mr D.
The report appears to refer to all individuals as “Mr”, including an anonymised reference to the appearance of board member Kay Sheldon at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, which is a matter of public record.
Several of the key senior individuals in the organisation at the time covered by the report were female.
HSJ revealed earlier this month that the report was finished and had been sent to external lawyers at the end of May.
Speaking at the regulator’s board meeting this morning, its now chair David Prior said the delay to publication of the report was to make it legally “publishable”.
Peter Steel, a partner in commercial dispute resolution at law firm Bevan Brittan, who has been advising the regulator, confirmed members of the CQC had not been involved in altering the report prior to its publication.
He warned board members this morning that, if they revealed the identities of employees involved during a board meeting which took place, that those individuals might have potential cases of defamation.
However, HSJ understands the main reason for not identifying individuals in the report relates to the Data Protection Act. HSJ understands CQC has received advice that, as individuals involved gave evidence to Grant Thornton voluntarily, the CQC does not have authority to disclose identifiable information under that act.
Mr Prior, who joined the CQC in February, described the report as “damning” and a “huge criticism” of the leadership of CQC at that time.
“I believe in the old adage the fish rots from head and the board has to take primary responsibility for what happened. We have some extremely good inspectors and they should not be tarnished by this,” he said at the board meeting this morning.
Mr Prior, who is a former foundation trust chair, blamed the failings exposed by the report on a “complete failure of strategy” the most serious of which was “what appears to be now an extraordinary belief” that generalist inspectors could inspect hospitals or mental health trusts.
Mr Prior added: “We can have no confidence, not just at Morecambe Bay, that we have done a proper job and it’s not because of the inspectors aren’t good people, it’s because we got the strategy absolutely wrong.” The CQC is moving to greater use of specialist clinical inspectors.