Prospective Care Quality Commission chair Dame Jo Williams faced a barrage of questions regarding the regulator’s weaknesses from MPs in a pre-appointment grilling last week.
The House of Commons health committee hearing last Thursday was held to help MPs decide whether Dame Jo was a suitable candidate for the job, following her selection by the government in July.
A report setting out the committee’s opinion was due as HSJ went to press and will inform health secretary Andrew Lansley’s decision over whether or not to proceed with the final appointment. Dame Jo faced repeated questions from Tory MP Nadine Dorries about the CQC’s weaknesses.
She responded: “I think we have some real challenges in absolutely making sure that we’re using our resources in the most effective way.
“That’s an ongoing challenge for us. We’ve been struggling, I have to say.”
Ms Dorries went on to ask a series of related questions, including whether Dame Jo took responsibility for any of the problems and if there were any other weaknesses she could think of.
“I would have thought that you would have identified a wide range of weaknesses, but it seems you gave quite a short answer,” said the MP.
Dame Jo said the regulator needed to build its public profile and provide information that would help patients to make informed choices.
Conservative Chris Skidmore asked her opinion of Health Watch, which health secretary Andrew Lansley hopes will strengthen the collective patient voice.
She said the CQC would need to think “carefully” about how Health Watch could operate as a separate entity working within the regulator.
For example, how the bodies would hold each other to account.
Asked whether the idea was plausible within the constraints of the CQC’s £168m budget, she said that question needed to be debated.
Closing the session, committee chair Stephen Dorrell asked whether, “given the broader public expenditure context”, Dame Jo thought it was her responsibility to volunteer a reduction in the CQC’s budget.
However, the CQC would continue to review whether it was using its resources effectively, she said.
Dame Jo has been interim CQC chair since former chair Baroness Barbara Young resigned in January.