• Trust in Ian Trenholm and executive team to provide clear leadership falls 10 percentage points in a year
  • CQC faces possible union action over decision to stop installing broadband for home workers
  • Mr Trenholm admits “this has been a tough year”

Confidence in the senior leadership of the Care Quality Commission has fallen sharply over the past year, with staff at the regulator reporting worsening morale in new survey results shared with HSJ.

Just 34 per cent of CQC staff told a survey in November that chief executive Ian Trenholm and his executive team “provide clear direction and leadership” — a fall of 10 percentage points on the year before.

Only 42 per cent of staff said the values of Mr Trenholm and his executive team “are consistent with the values of the CQC” — also a 10 percentage point drop. These were the largest falls among all the questions in the survey.

Some 56 per cent felt the CQC was a good place to work, down four percentage points in 12 months. The percentage saying their “personal morale is good” was 51 per cent, down 7 percentage points.

Ian Trenholm Colour photo

Ian Trenholm

Mr Trenholm, responding to the survey findings, said 2019 was a “tough year with some direct challenges to the way we work”, such as the scrutiny of the CQC’s role in the Whorlton Hall abuse scandal.

During the past year, the CQC also set out to cut its number of inspectors, while investing in IT. The biggest improvement in the survey, by 16 percentage points on 2018, was the proportion agreeing “I have the equipment/technology to carry out my role”.

Mr Trenholm took over from Sir David Behan in August 2018, and nearly all the CQC’s executive team has changed in the past two years.

Broadband

The results come as the CQC has been warned by five unions they are considering industrial action over its plans to stop providing separate broadband lines into home workers’ properties.

Around 2,000 CQC staff are home workers and the regulator said the majority of these already have unlimited broadband in their homes, so it plans to stop installing separate lines from 1 April.

Unison’s national officer Matt Egan — on behalf of the five unions also including the Royal College of Nursing, the Public and Commercial Services Union, Unite and Prospect — said staff are “understandably alarmed” by the plans.

He said: “Despite registering concerns back in October, the CQC is stubbornly pressing ahead with a damaging and unpopular plan with little staff consultation.

“It’s disappointing that managers seem prepared to tear up a longstanding contractual agreement in this way.

“The unions are keen to resolve the dispute swiftly and amicably. However, staff will consider taking stronger action if a settlement can’t be reached.”

The CQC, which says most home workers face a “policy change” rather than a contractual issue, said it has offered goodwill payments of £230 to its home workers, and to reimburse them for any costs of installing new broadband connections.

Falling morale

The November 2019 survey, answered by 77 per cent of the CQC’s staff, echoes results of a snap poll of CQC staff in August. This found 35 per cent of the workforce believed the executive team were providing clear leadership.

The latest survey also found the proportion of CQC staff reporting good personal morale dropped by seven percentage points to 51 per cent.

There were some positives, however, as the survey found a big increase in the share of CQC staff believing they have the technology to carry out their roles (up 16 percentage points to 57 per cent).

Mr Trenhom said the survey “shows that there are many things we do well”, citing that 89 per cent of staff believed the CQC made a positive difference to people’s lives. This was down two percentage points on the year before, however.

He said: “This has been a tough year with some direct challenges to the way we work, such as the important scrutiny around Whorlton Hall, and this has required hard work and introspection across the organisation. Some of these results make it clear that the impact of the work we have done in our areas of focus — such as reducing inspector workloads — is not yet being felt.

“A healthy culture of self-reflection and continuous improvement is something we ask of providers and we must also ask of ourselves. This means actively asking for our colleagues’ thoughts and listening to what comes back.”