Counting the cost of the CQC: Abuse, Whorlton Hall and CQC spin doctors

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By Dr Minh Alexander NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist 14 June 2019


Summary A dismal spectacle of self-preservation, sly deflection and scapegoating of subordinates unfolded when CQC directors, Paul Lelliott Deputy Chief Inspector and Ian Trenholm Chief Executive appeared in front of the Joint Human Rights Committee on 12 June 2019.

They had been hauled in to answer questions about CQC’s suppression of a 2015 inspection report. The report described wide ranging and serious care failings that effectively amounted to institutional abuse, serious risks and allegations of mistreatment at Whorlton Hall, where BBC Panorama recently exposed serious abuse by staff. 

Although the CQC refused to hand over crucial documents, the Committee had in its possession internal CQC correspondence with Barry Stanley-Wilkinson CQC whistleblower. This put Lelliott in the thick of things in 2016, just before a whitewash alternative CQC report was published June 2016. The correspondence also revealed other allegations of bullying and suppression by CQC managers.

It was clear from the Committee hearing this week that the last thing that the CQC intends to do is to take responsibility. Instead, there is yet another disingenuous proposal to review inspection methodology, when the issue is not incompetence but cover up.

It takes time and money to service a denial machine.

A quick search reveals that CQC hires at least twenty seven comms and ‘engagement’ staff. This must be gratifying for its executive escape artists.

Of special note, it seems that CQC hired a PR bod to assist Andrea Sutcliffe former CQC Chief Inspector with managing the news on social care failings and BBC Panorama exposures.

Also noteworthy is the fact the former Department of Health’s chief spin doctor for the whitewash Freedom To Speak Up Review, on NHS whistleblowing, is now CQC’s Head of Provider Engagement.

The CQC is too riddled with years of misdeeds to be reformed. Only abolition and a clean slate will do now.




 There are many, many disturbing things surrounding the Whorlton Hall affair.

Questions arise about the fact that in May 2016 a CQC operations manager joined Danshell,  the company which ran the facility, as a Director of Operations.

Questions also arise about the general extent of regulatory capture given that last year, CQC’s previous chief executive walked straight through the revolving door onto the board of care home giant HC-One.

Just after Behan’s arrival at HC-One was announced, he gave evidence to parliament urging that more cash for care should be generated through various taxes and compulsory levies:

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 09.17.37.png


However on the subject of tax,  the Financial Times reported that HC-One itself has been avoiding tax.

The company complained of social care sector underfunding, paid zero corporation tax since 2011 but had paid at least £48.5m in dividends. The FT considered that more payments had probably been hidden by its complex structure, which made the flow of money hard to trace:

Britain’s biggest care home operator has paid out more than £48.5m in dividends in the past two years despite warning that local authority funding cuts have brought the sector to the brink of a financial crisis.” 

“HC-One appears to have declared a loss every year except one since its creation in 2011. It has paid no UK corporation tax in that time, and instead received net tax credits of £6.5m since a reorganisation in 2014.”

“Tracing the flow of money is difficult as HC-One has a complex corporate structure, with 50 companies, six of which are registered offshore either in the Cayman Islands or Jersey and a further five in the UK as foreign entities. This means investors and executives are likely to have received much greater sums as only one of its subsidiaries files consolidated accounts — the top UK company, FC Skyfall Upper Midco Limited.”



Whorlton Hall needed to fit the CQC narrative

Whorlton Hall was a former Castlebeck facility. Castlebeck was the company which ran Winterbourne View, where vulnerable people were severely abused whilst CQC turned a blind eye to desperate whistleblowers:

BBC Timeline: Winterbourne View abuse scandal

Danshell took over Castlebeck when the company ran into financial difficulties after the Winterbourne View scandal. Danshell was the company running Whorlton Hall in 2015, when care failings were discovered by Barry Stanley-Wilkinson’s team, but suppressed by senior CQC managers.

The CQC took a monumental pasting over its gross failures at Winterbourne View.  CQC would have been hypervigilant and very actively managing all news about ex-Castlebeck properties such as Whorlton Hall. It carried out review of the Castlebeck estate after Winterbourne View and was forced to admit there were serious systemic issues.

But by 2016, a politically useful landscape of 100% ‘Good’ ratings had been established across all of Danshell’s estate, and thus the spectre of Castlebeck was seemingly finally banished. Thus a typical heart-warming yarn was spun of improvement under CQC’s regulatory influence.

It follows that the likes of Barry Stanley-Wilkinson, who described care failures in plain English, would be a threat to the narratives that CQC wished to weave.


CQC’s fixers and schmoozers

From a quick and dirty search of information in the public domain, there are at least twenty seven CQC staff, besides the legal team, whose primary role is to protect the organisation and ensure correct messaging.

A list is provided in the appendix of individuals whose details appear in the public domain as CQC comms and engagement staff.

Stunningly, there is an individual who it appears was explicitly hired as Andrea Sutcliffe former Chief Inspector of Social Care’s personal flak handler on the social care crisis and BBC Panorama’s coverage of care scandals:

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 06.44.54

Whistleblowers will also be interested to know that the Department of Health’s chief spin doctor for the whitewash Freedom To Speak Up Review is now engaging for a living at the CQC.

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 08.35.25

The suffering, neglect and injustice implied by the contents of the suppressed 2015 inspection report on Whorlton Hall is a matter of deep shame.

One line in the 2015 report told Lelliott et al everything they needed to know about Whorlton Hall:

“Patients did not have a discharge plan in place, and senior managers recognised this as an area for development.”

 There are online reviews by apparent former Danshell workers, dating from 2016, which allege abusive employment and care practices. Are we to believe that CQC’s well paid intelligence gathering teams did not pick these up?

The parasitic model of regulation – running interference for government, infested with private interests and generating a self-serving industry of itself rather than serving the vulnerable, needs to be swept away.

Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care has today written to Ian Trenholm CQC chief executive to challenge continuing evasion:

Barbara Keeley letter to Trenholm 14.06.2019 part 1.jpg

Barbara Keeley letter to Ian Trenholm CQC 14.06.2019 part 2


Barbara Keeley letter to Ian Trenholm 14.06.2019 part 3


Barbara Keeley has now challenged the government’s wholly inadequate plan for the CQC to control an investigation into itself, and has called for a properly independent inquiry:


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Petition to replace weak UK whistleblowing law to protect whistleblowers and the public



Currently listed CQC comms and engagement staff:

Anna Jefferson, Head of Media

Laura Conn, Media Manager

Kirstin Hannaford, Senior Media Officer (Hospitals and acute care)

Lauren Haslehurst, Senior Media Officer (Adult social care)

Stephen Clark, Senior Media Officer (General practice, dentistry and other primary care)

Maryellen Clare, Senior Media Officer (Mental Health)

Paul Darigan Social Media Manager

James Hedges Regional Communications Officer

Chris Day Director of Engagement

Louise Grifferty Regional Engagement Manager

Amy Key Head of Provider Engagement

Abigail Walker Provider Engagement Officer

Alan Pickstock Engagement Integration lead

Ayse Sema Senior Engagement and Comms officer

Brian Silk Senior Digital Engagement Advisor

Tom Coales Head of Parliamentary Government and Stakeholder Engagement

Christopher Hares Parliamentary and Stakeholder Engagement Manager

James Bryant Government Engagement Manager

Jill Morrell Head of Public Engagement

Clare Haylock Senior Engagement and Internal Insight Officer

David Fryer Regional Comms manager at CQC

Edward Foster Communications and Engagement Manager

Elizabeth Dobres Communications and Engagement Manager

Farrah Chandra Regional Engagement Officer

Fionnula Robinson Senior Engagement Manager

Holly Daniels Head of Transformation Engagement at Care Quality Commission

Quinten Manby Head of Internal Engagement



Carl Beech who is on trial for the VIP paedophile fraud and perverting the course of justice, and who was recently convicted of sex offences against children, was a CQC inspector:

Carl Beech trial: VIP child sex accuser is convicted paedophile

Westminster VIP abuse accuser ‘fled to Sweden when story collapsed’

“Beech, who worked for the Care Quality Commission health watchdog”

Carl Beech was listed by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust as a CQC lead inspector:

Board paper November 2014

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 10.39.27.png







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