• CQC spent £71,600 on recruitment of national guardian for NHS whistleblowers
  • Regulator spent £61,300 on headhunters months before Carter review warned against using such firms
  • First person in the role resigned after two months earlier this year

The Care Quality Commission spent £71,600 recruiting the national guardian for NHS whistleblowers, HSJ can reveal.

The regulator spent £61,300 on a headhunting firm shortly before the Carter review warned against using such companies for executive recruitment.

Henrietta Hughes

Henrietta Hughes

Henrietta Hughes became the new guardian earlier this month

The appointment of a national guardian to protect NHS staff who raise concerns was a central recommendation of Sir Robert Francis’ review into whistleblowing.

However, the CQC’s recruitment to the role has been dogged by problems.

The initial appointee, Dame Eileen Sills, resigned after just two months after concluding that it was impossible to combine the role with her existing job as nursing director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.

The decision to award Dame Eileen the role on a two days a week basis while she continued to work at the trust attracted criticism at the time of the appointment.

Earlier this month the CQC appointed Henrietta Hughes, a practising GP and NHS England area team medical director, as Dame Eileen’s replacement.

According to information obtained by HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act, the regulator spent £61,300 on the headhunting firm Russell Reynolds Associates to recruit Dame Eileen.

The CQC said this figure covered “executive search fees, advertising and minimal individual expenses”.

Following Dame Eileen’s resignation, Russell Reynolds “have not charged further fees in relation to the recruitment of Henrietta Hughes”, the CQC said.

However, there were extra costs associated with the second recruitment process. An additional £1,400 was spent on advertising, £8,400 on assessment tests for the shortlisted candidates, and £500 has been paid out in expenses.

The extra costs bring the CQC’s total expenditure on recruiting the national guardian to £71,600.

The £61,300 spent on Russell Reynolds was more than twice the amount the Department of Health paid the same firm to headhunt Jim Mackey as NHS Improvement’s chief executive last year.

A month after Ms Sills’ appointment was announced in January, Lord Carter’s review on NHS efficiency warned against the use of headhunting firms in the health service.

The review recommended mandating the initial use of NHS Executive Search – the NHS’s in-house recruitment service – “to provide a candidate shortlist for executive appointments before external recruitment consultancies are considered”.

A CQC spokesman said Russell Reynolds was appointed in September 2015 to help with the national guardian recruitment, and a first appointment to that role was made in November 2015 in advance of the publication of the Carter review in February 2016.

He added that after Dame Eileen stood down, Russell Reynolds undertook the second recruitment campaign “for no fee as provided for in their contract”, and working with the company “therefore saved time and any extra expense”.