By Dr Minh Alexander retired consultant psychiatrist 8 November 2022
The Care Quality Commission has a long history of politicisation, arbitrary regulatory behaviour and poor conduct towards whistleblowers, both its own and those from regulated bodies.
On 26 October 2022 CQC announced cursory terms of reference for a review into its whistleblowing governance.
These extraordinarily omitted to explore CQC’s general handling of internal whistleblowing matters.
The ToR only focussed on a single internal CQC whistleblowing case and and examination of CQC’s conduct towards whistleblowers from regulated bodies:
“In relation to
(1) the protected disclosures made to the CQC by Mr Kumar; and
(2) a sample of whistleblowing concerns received by the CQC related to NHS Trusts, the size and date range of which is to be agreed:
The Review will:
(3) consider how CQC used these disclosures in its regulation of the relevant NHS Trusts and whether appropriate action was taken, taking account of all relevant factors including whether ethnicity played any part in the management of those disclosures; and
(4) make recommendations for improvement.
(5) Should the reviewer consider, during the course of the review, that these Terms of Reference require amendment, they will make a written proposal to that effect to the CQC Board for their consideration.”
This represents a defiant lack of apology to CQC’s workforce about its poor behaviour and it fails to ensure psychological safety for any current or future CQC whistleblowers.
It is possible of course that the above omission contains an implied threat to CQC’s workforce, and is a message that silence is preferred.
On 7 September 2022 Martin Morton social care whistleblower and former Social Services manager asked the CQC about its whistleblowing governance, via the What Do They Know website.
Included in his FOI request was a request for disclosure of the CQC’s own Freedom To Speak Up Guardian’s reports.
It was poor that CQC had not already published these reports. NHS trusts routinely publish these types of reports by their Freedom To Speak Up Guardians. That is to say, instead of being an exemplar as a regulator should, CQC is a governance laggard.
The CQC acknowledged the Morton FOI request and initially indicated that it would provide a response by 5 October 2022, the statutory deadline.
But CQC then changed course and stated to Martin Morton, on 6 October 2022, that it had encountered unspecified difficulties:
“Unfortunately, we are not currently able to respond to your request due to an unforeseen delay in processing your request.”
This was not a lawful response.
By 4 November 2022, as he had still not heard, Martin Morton prompted the CQC with the admonition that he would refer the matter to the ICO if necessary.
Faced with this, on 7 November 2022, the power-abusing CQC finally responded. This is the CQC’s response:
The response shows that in the course of five years, only 131 speaking up cases were raised with CQC’s own Freedom To Speak Up Guardian.
This is a small number of Speaking Up cases for a large organisation (over three thousand FTE workers), if compared to the reporting rate at NHS trusts.
Moreover in 2021/22, there was a sharp fall in CQC’s speaking up cases.
Is this because CQC’s victimisation of yet another of its own whistleblowers became public?
The CQC denies that any of the 131 speaking up cases featured detriment.
Most remarkably, in its FOI response of 7 November 2022, CQC continued to evade the request for copies of reports by its own, internal Freedom To Speak Up Guardian.
Instead of disclosing its own Freedom To Speak Up Guardian’s reports, CQC bizarrely pointed Martin Morton to published reports by the National Guardian.
What could CQC be hiding?
What content in the internal Freedom To Speak Up Guardian reports is CQC so reluctant to disclose?
This shabby organisational behaviour, whilst a review into CQC’s whistleblowing governance is underway, is hardly reassuring evidence of genuine remorse and learning.
Martin Morton continues to pursue the disclosure of the CQC Freedom To Speak Up Guardian reports.
In other news, CQC has tried to apply a patently invalid FOIA exemption to an FOI request by another whistleblower, but it retreated when challenged.
More coming soon about that misdemeanour.
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