A total of 65 NHS chief executives and senior board directors have been subject to complaints under fit and proper person regulations, HSJ can reveal.

The Care Quality Commission, which is responsible for making sure trusts comply with the rules that came into effect in November, confirmed the number of complaints it has received and how many have been closed or are subject to further investigation.

The regulations require trusts to be assured people are fit and proper to be employed. Directors can be deemed “unfit” to sit on boards if they have been involved in “serious misconduct or mismanagement”. The CQC can, through the provider registration process, require the removal of directors found to be unfit.

Board table

The CQC has considered and closed 12 fit and proper person complaints about directors

HSJ has learned at least one NHS acute trust has commissioned an independent investigation led by a QC into the conduct of its chief executive over claims they may have suppressed whistleblowers and covered up concerns about poor care.

The decision followed the CQC informing the trust that it was not satisfied the organisation had done enough to achieve its responsibilities under the regulations.

Earlier this year HSJ reported a mass complaint against NHS executives was made to the CQC by a group of campaigners and whistleblowers in the first test of the regulations.

Responding to a freedom of information request from Dr Minh Alexander, who contributed to Sir Robert Francis’s whistleblowing review this year, the CQC said 23 complaints involving 65 people had been considered as of 14 May. Twenty-three of these people complained about were not eligible for consideration under the regulations.

The CQC said the cases related to people who are working or have worked in health service organisations.

Twelve of the complaints, involving 44 people, have been considered and closed. Five of the closed cases, covering 14 people, related to concerns that whistleblowers had been suppressed.

HSJ has decided not to publish the names of directors subject to fit and proper person complaints until the final outcome of the CQC’s process and only where individuals have been identified as not being fit and proper.

A CQC spokesman said it would not publish details of people that have been referred to it under the regulations to protect their confidentiality during the initial stages of investigation.

He added: “If or when we find that an NHS trust is in breach of this regulation, we would use our enforcement powers, which would be made public. It’s important to remember that CQC’s role is to ensure that providers fulfil the requirements of the fit and proper persons regulation – not to investigate or to pass a judgment on individuals. 

“We have been responsible for making sure that NHS trusts meet this requirement since November 2014 and so, it’s fair to say that if changes are ever needed to how we exercise this responsibility, then we will be open and transparent about this and why.”