The Care Quality Commission board member who gave highly critical evidence about the regulator to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry is facing the sack, it has emerged.
Kay Sheldon contacted the inquiry last November after becoming frustrated her concerns were not being listened to within the organisation. In her evidence she described the CQC’s strategy as “reactive” and driven by “reputation management and personal survival”.
The issue was raised during a House of Lords grand committee meeting yesterday. Labour peer Lord Hunt claimed CQC chair Jo Williams had written to the health secretary on the day Kay Sheldon appeared at the public inquiry, urging him to use his powers to remove her from the board.
In response Andrew Lansley commissioned a review into Ms Sheldon’s actions which concluded her decision to contact the inquiry with her concerns had led to an “irretrievable breakdown in relationships”.
Lord Hunt, who is also chair of Heart of England Foundation Trust, told the committee Mr Lansley had now written to Mrs Sheldon “indicating that she may have met the grounds for termination” and inviting her response.
He said Ms Sheldon had already raised her concerns at the CQC, the DH and the National Audit Office before deciding to speak out publicly at the inquiry and highlighted the fact inquiry chair Robert Francis QC had described Ms Sheldon as a “whistleblower”.
Lord Hunt said: “The decision of the secretary of state in relation to Mrs Sheldon will have, I think, a profound effect on whistleblowing generally within the national health service and I would urge a great deal of sensitivity when it comes to making any such decision.”
The Labour peer’s comments came in response to regulations laid by health minister Earl Howe altering the make up of the CQC’s board to create a larger unitary body with executive as well as non-executive members. The changes were recommended by the DH’s performance and capability review of the regulator.
Lord Hunt pointed out the review had supported Ms Sheldon’s allegations that the board was failing in its duty to challenge the executive and the organisation lacked a clear strategy.
He added: “In these circumstances surely Mrs Sheldon should not be penalised for taking her concerns to the Francis inquiry.”
Earl Howe said he could not comment on the position of individual members of the board.
The CQC declined to comment.