Two senior members of the Care Quality Commission’s seven-strong board have resigned.

The departure of director of regulation and strategy Jamie Rentoul and director of methods Gary Needle comes as the new government announced plans to “strengthen the role of the CQC so it becomes an effective quality inspectorate”.

A senior source said this would involve a move from an “assurance” to an “inspection” model. The CQC would have to “narrow its focus into being more of an inspectorate against standards than a body that thinks it is part of NHS quality improvement”.

One former insider said the senior departures this week meant the organisation was losing its best brains - Mr Rentoul - and its most effective “deliverer”, Mr Needle.

The CQC has not had a permanent chair since Baroness Barbara Young left in February after dramatically resigning two months earlier.

There is a history of tension between health secretary Andrew Lansley and CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower, which flared up after the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust scandal.

Ms Bower was NHS West Midlands chief executive during the period that Stafford Hospital was providing standards of emergency care branded “appalling” in a Healthcare Commission report last year.

Mr Lansley, speaking then as shadow health secretary, said this was “a very poor basis for Cynthia Bower to be given her new job as the head of the independent health regulator.”

The CQC is also being scrutinised as part of the government’s review of arm’s length bodies. HSJ has been told a period of “horse trading” is under way, with some organisations offering to share back-office functions and give away or swap areas of work in order to safeguard their future.

CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said: “When we merged just over a year ago, we brought together three very different organisations, with different regulatory models and different organisational structures.

“We knew it would take about a year and half to get the organisation in the right shape to deliver a brand new model of regulation.  We have been closely scrutinising all of our costs and functions to ensure maximum efficiency.

“Our first step was to design and start rolling out the new registration system. Step two was restructuring our field force . Inspecting and assessing services is our ‘bread and butter’ so it is vital that we’ve got the right resources on the frontline. We’re now at step three - making sure our central functions are structured to best support our frontline staff. 

“We’ve reshuffled the directorates, reducing any overlap in functions and making the structure is more efficient and aligned with the new regulatory model. Gary Needle and Jamie Rentoul have chosen to take this opportunity to move on from CQC. They are both experts in their field and their contribution to setting up CQC has been enormous. I thank them personally and on behalf of the whole organisation. I wish them every success in the future.”