• Lord Blunkett says CCG’s improvement plan “is not a matter of internal process”
  • Confirms he has been asked to meet with CCG following submission of written question to DHSC
  • CCG says it is searching for an external senior director to oversee improvement plan’s development

David Blunkett has voiced concerns that a clinical commissioning group at the centre of a bullying row has an existing director leading its improvement plan, telling HSJ this “is not a matter of internal process”.

The senior peer – who served as the MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough for 28 years and was former education secretary and home secretary in the last Labour government – also submitted a written question to the Department of Health and Social Care on 11 March.

He asked the department what will be done to ensure the protection of whistleblowers at Sheffield CCG, to take action to restore confidence in the operation of the CCG and refresh the CCG’s decision-making structure.  

HSJ revealed last month that Sheffield CCG was facing serious questions over its leadership and culture, amid bullying allegations, whistleblowing complaints and a critical independent investigation, which the CCG published online after HSJ’s report.

Lord Blunkett told HSJ: “I have at the CCG’s request agreed to meet them and will clearly have to hear what they’ve got to say about the process of change.”

He continued: “Nicki Doherty, who’s been asked to lead an internal change process, is someone for whom I have the highest regard but this is not a matter of internal process, but of governance, accountability and responsibility to the public and other stakeholders.”

He added the government appears to be “the only channel by which accountability can be secured”.

In an email sent to CCG staff from accountable officer Maddy Ruff and seen by HSJ, the CCG said its director of delivery Ms Doherty will work to “coordinate the development” of an improvement plan for the organisation.

The email said Ms Doherty would not be working on business as usual or attending all her usual meetings while she works on the improvement plan.

However, when approached about Lord Blunkett’s comments to HSJ, Brian Hughes, director of commissioning and deputy accountable officer at Sheffield CCG, said the organisation has agreed to work with an external senior director who will provide “oversight and assurance in the development of the improvement plan”.

“Although Ms Doherty is leading on this work she isn’t developing the plan alone. It is being developed in partnership with our governing body, staff, partners and the public,” he said.

“Nobody is in a better position to know what we do well and what we could do better than our staff and those who work with our organisation,” he added.

The CCG confirmed a selection process had been started with NHS England to decide who the external director would be and said the process would conclude next week.