• “Competency standards” to be introduced for NHS directors
  • A “central directors’ database” will collect their qualifications and history
  • No “striking off” measure
  • Kark review of “fit and proper person test” to be published also

Directors of NHS organisations will have to meet minimum “competency standards” and be listed on a “central database” but will not face the prospect of being struck off, the government is due to announce today.

The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement last night that training and support would be offered to managers who fail to meet a new set of minimum standards. There will be a new database holding information about senior NHS managers’ qualifications and previous employment history.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock is due to speak about the changes in a speech this morning, coinciding with the publication of a review by Tom Kark QC of the current “fit and proper person test” for NHS board members.

The review itself is due to be released later today, and it is not yet clear how many of its recommendations have been accepted by ministers.

However, a DHSC spokeswoman told HSJ the government’s proposals did not include the ability to “strike off” directors or managers.

“New national competency standards for NHS leaders will establish clearer professional benchmarks and provide more structured career progression, alongside a central directors’ database where information about qualifications and employment history can be easily accessed,” the DHSC statement said.

Mr Kark was asked to review the FPP regulations, brought in after the Mid Staffordshire scandal, after a report by Bill Kirkup into Liverpool Community Health Trust revealed how poor managers were moved into new roles in the NHS. 

The DHSC indicated his recommendations would now be considered as part of the wider workforce review being led by the NHS Improvement chair, Baroness Dido Harding.

It is not clear whether the Kark Review has recommended tougher measures against NHS managers.

Mr Hancock is also expected to announce plans for a new family engagement model, which will be developed by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch and designed to ensure families are treated “professionally, sensitively, respectfully and according to their individual needs throughout the investigation process” after incidents.

The model will cover partners, parents, siblings, children, guardians and others who had a direct and close relationship with the patient, aimed at making sure appropriate information and advice are given. This could include referrals, where relevant, to other agencies.

In a speech at the Improving Patient Safety and Care Conference today, Mr Hancock is due to say: “Creating a more just culture in the NHS, a more open, honest and trustworthy culture, starts today. And it starts at the top.

“All directors must meet minimum competency standards to sit on the board of any health organisation. And where training is needed to meet those new standards, then it should be made available.

“We should also have a central directors’ database where information about qualifications and employment history can be easily accessed.”

Mr Hancock will add: “I know that NHS leaders have some of the toughest jobs in the country. We need to support them with the skills and training they need so they can lead their organisations effectively and create the right culture for staff and patients.”

He will also recommit government to doing more to support whistleblowing doctors and nurses, the DHSC said.