A group of whistleblowers and patient safety campaigners have raised concerns about 20 NHS trust leaders under the fit and proper person’s test, which was introduced last October.
Nursing Times has not named them – nor has our sister title Health Service Journal – they are innocent until proven guilty.
We are, however, delighted that this test is in place and is being used and publicised.
A test for board-level directors was recommended almost two years ago in the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. It is an important step in recognising that clinicians are not the only ones who affect care standards. Nurses are often chastised for care failings – by patients, relatives and the media – for problems caused by factors over which they have little control, such as staffing levels.
Those in charge should take some responsibility; they may have cut resources or failed to listen to staff concerns, causing a poor patient experience or compromising patient safety.
Before the test was introduced, nurses could be struck off for failing to adhere to the Nursing and Midwifery Council code, but their chief executives could walk away from situations even if their decisions had put patients in danger. Some of the most notorious moved to other senior jobs in the NHS with ease.
It’s time the system recognised that patient safety and dignity aren’t purely the responsibility of nurses or other clinicians
It’s time the system recognised that patient safety and dignity aren’t purely the responsibility of nurses or other clinicians. Decisions taken in the boardroom can have as much of an effect as those taken at the nurses’ station. Making directors accountable for those decisions is vital – patient safety is also their business.
Under the regulations, the Care Quality Commission investigates claims that board-level directors are not acting with competence, capability, honesty and integrity, and can dismiss people from such jobs and prevent their appointment to other senior posts.
The vast majority of board members have nothing to fear. The handful whose decisions jeopardise patient safety can now expect to face the consequences, just as clinicians do. The playing field, it feels, has been levelled somewhat.
Jenni Middleton, editor
Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed