A former nursing director is among the first senior NHS managers to be referred to the Care Quality Commission under new “fit and proper person” regulations, Nursing Times has learned.
The individual is among more than 20 reported to the regulator under the new legislation aimed at improving corporate accountability and ensuring managers are fit to lead.
A group of whistleblowers and campaigners has made seven formal submissions alleging several managers are unfit for board level positions because of their past actions or behaviour, it has emerged.
“The CQC will no doubt want to be reasonably confident the individual is not a fit and proper person before it takes any action”
Hempsons law firm
Information obtained by Nursing Times’ sister magazine HSJ shows those named include at least one senior figure from the world of nursing – a former director of nursing at an acute trust - alongside current and former trust chief executives and medical directors.
Under the regulations, directors, including directors of nursing, can be deemed “unfit” to sit on boards if they have been involved in “serious misconduct or mismanagement”.
The CQC can, via the provider registration process, require the removal of directors found to be unfit.
The referrals are understood to be the first to be made since the legislation came into effect in November last year.
Nursing Times and HSJ has chosen not to name the people referred at this stage.
The fit and proper person test was a key recommendation of the Francis inquiry into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Source: © Royalty-Free/CORBIS
When the concept was consulted on, the Royal College of Nursing said it backed the idea but stressed the test must be applied fairly.
There were concerns it could have a disproportionate impact on directors of nursing because of the extent and nature of their responsibilities.
The RCN also warned those directors with a professional role – such as directors of nursing and medical directors – would in effect be subject to “dual regulation”.
It highlighted the need for the test to link up to and complement the work of professional regulators like the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Paul Spencer, employment partner at the law firm Hempsons, said he expected the CQC to forward the concerns to individual trusts and only make a decision once a response had been received.
“It is for the relevant trust and the chair to be assured the relevant director is a fit and proper person,” he told HSJ. “The CQC will no doubt want to be reasonably confident the individual is not a fit and proper person before it takes any action. This is the start of a potentially very long process.”
Meanwhile Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership, which represents health service managers, admitted there was widespread confusion about the new law.
“It can only add to the risk and uncertainty building up for these roles if any issue can be referred and… investigated”
Managers in Partnership
“It can only add to the risk and uncertainty building up for these roles if any issue can be referred and any issue investigated,” he said.
“We are not saying these cases do not need to be investigated but if people are using this law to further personal agendas I think the CQC needs to signal early on what they will and will not entertain.”
A CQC spokesman said it had received seven formal submissions under the fit and proper person regulations.