The Care Quality Commission non-executive director who gave highly critical evidence to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry will stay on the regulator’s board, despite attempts by its chair to remove her.

Kay Sheldon described the regulator’s strategy as “reactive” and driven by “reputation management and personal survival” when she gave evidence last November. She told the inquiry she had felt duty bound to go public with her concerns after repeatedly raising them internally.

Ms Sheldon was described by chair Robert Francis QC as a whistleblower.

On the day Ms Sheldon appeared at the inquiry CQC chair Dame Jo Williams wrote to health secretary Andrew Lansley requesting Ms Sheldon be removed from the board.

HSJ understands Mr Lansley, who earlier this year announced amendments to the NHS Constitution explicitly requiring organisations to support whistleblowers, has now written to Dame Jo confirming Ms Sheldon should remain on the board.

Ms Sheldon told HSJ she was looking forward to making “a full and active contribution” to the CQC.

“In particular I will be pushing for CQC to lead by example in having an open, honest and supportive culture,” she said.

However, the decision will raise questions about Dame Jo’s own future on the board. She took over as chair from Dame Barbara Young in December 2009 and has led the CQC through a period in which its leadership has received intense criticism from witnesses to the inquiry, MPs on the health select committee and the Department of Health.  

Asked by HSJ earlier this month if she thought her position would remain tenable if Ms Sheldon remained in post, Dame Jo said it was a matter for the board.

HSJ understands Mr Lansley still has full confidence in Dame Jo.

In February chief executive Cynthia Bower resigned on the day the DH published a performance and capability review which supported many of Ms Sheldon’s concerns.

Ms Bower’s replacement David Behan, the former DH director general for social care, took up his post earlier this month.

In a statement released this afternoon Dame Jo said: “We have recently strengthened our board with the addition of Anna Bradley and Steve Hitchins. I look forward to working with them and Kay and our other board members to guide CQC in its vital role of ensuring the safety and quality of health and social care services.”