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CQC 'cover up' meeting names revealed


Former deputy chief executive of the Care Quality Commission Jill Finney has been revealed as the official who, according to an independent audit review, ordered a critical internal report to be deleted.

In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt this afternoon, current CQC chief executive David Behan and chair David Prior confirmed the names of the four people present at the meeting where discussion took place about the report.

The Grant Thornton investigation report was published yesterday, but the CQC had previously said it could not name the individuals involved due to the Data Protection Act.

However, in today’s letter, which follows political and media pressure, Mr Behan and Mr Prior said they had reconsidered the decision in light of advice from the Information Commissioner and the “overriding public interest in transparency”.

The report, which it is alleged was ordered to be deleted, had been prepared by head of regulatory risk and quality Louise Dinley at the request of former director of operations Amanda Sherlock.

It examined the CQC’s decision making around the registration of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay without conditions in 2010. Serious concerns about maternity services at the trust’s Furness General Hospital emerged just months later.

According to the review of the CQC’s handling of the regulation of the trust by Grant Thornton, which was commissioned by the CQC’s new leadership, Ms Finney is alleged to have given the order to delete the report at a meeting on 12 March 2012, stating to Ms Dinley “read my lips”.

Former chief executive Cynthia Bower and media manager Anna Jefferson were also present at the meeting. The Grant Thornton report says Ms Finney recalled Ms Jefferson “exclaiming “Are you kidding me? This can never be in a public domain nor subject to FoI”.

The report notes that Ms Finney “did not unequivocally deny giving [Ms Dinley] an instruction to delete his report” and that, unlike Ms Dinley, Ms Finney was unable to produce a contemporaneous note of the meeting.

When interviewed by Grant Thornton, Ms Jefferson did not deny making the comments but “suggested [she] did make them but only because [she] was unhappy with the form of [the] report and its conclusion”.

It concludes: “To summarise the position with regard to the meeting on 12 March 2012 attended by four people: one person alleges he was given an instruction to delete a report and has a personal contemporaneous note - part of which has been corroborated - to support his contention; [Ms Jefferson] gave a somewhat ambiguous denial the instruction was given, [Ms Finney] cannot say one way or the other whether the instruction was given and the [Ms Bower] cannot recall the meeting at all.”

In their letter to Mr Hunt Mr Behan and Mr Prior said they were seeking “advice on whether there is any appropriate action that may be taken in relation to these named individuals”.


Readers' comments (8)

  • As my old granny used to say, "Hanging is to good for's a good kick up the backside they need!!"

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  • tinkerbell

    i hope prosecutions will be pending, misconduct in a public office springs to mind and that's putting it mildly.

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  • tinkerbell

    Perhaps cynthia's GP could refer her to me for an MMSE on her cognition.

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  • About 18 months ago, Bower addressed the Dignity Commission set up by the NHS Confederation, Age UK and the Local Government Association to examine what had gone wrong in the care of the elderly. Bower stated that “the idea of patients rights seemed to have been lost.”

    Asked to what she attributed some of the poor care exposed during the CQC’s recent dignity and nutrition inspections, Ms Bower said resources could be a factor but culture and staff attitudes were more important. She singled out nurses for particular criticism.

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    Well Cynthia, I hope no stone is left unturned to bring you and the other hypocrites to account and that you are appropriately punished.

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  • michael stone

    Amid the ongoing personal tragedies of Morecombe Bay, and the ‘call for blood’, there is something else here which will probably be almost ignored: yet this is fundamental, in terms of ongoing institutional behaviour.

    The basic position (as claimed by CQC leaders) of the CQC on Wednesday, was (my words) “ We were faced with either not publishing the report at all, or publishing it without the names: we can’t publish the names, because of data protection issues, and we have taken expert legal advice about this”.

    After the furore, by Thursday mid-afternoon, “ The CQC has sought further legal advice, and we have now decided to publish the names”.

    THE LAW DID NOT CHANGE BETWEEN WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY – and ‘expert legal advice’ HAD BEEN QUOTED for the ‘we can’t publish the names, because of the law’ original decision.

    Trusts, etc, often use ‘we have got expert legal advice on this’: beyond being ‘a defence mechanism to cover us if we get it wrong’, this ‘expert legal advice’ is merely an opinion – IT CANNOT BE CLAIMED TO BE ‘RIGHT’. Lots of complex legal questions, are sent to panels of judges for rulings – sometimes 5 judges will rule 3-2 about something, and that isn’t very persuasive about ‘laws being well-understood’, is it ?

    The CQC is now ‘consulting more expert lawyers’, this time about ‘can we bring some sort of ‘action under employment law’ against various people’ – see above, all the CQC will get is an expert opinion.

    Theresa May, invariably says ‘Our lawyers are confident we should win this case’ (my phrase) and even so, the courts often rule ‘against her’.

    The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued some guidance, which means that relatives are in practice no longer prosecuted for assisting a suicide if their motivation appears to be ‘compassion’: yet legally, it is far from clear that ‘acting out of compassion’ is a defence (and for professionals, assisting a suicide out of compassion, has been explicitly stated as not being a defence). Why has the DPP issued that guidance ? Might it be that there is a concern that the public (juries) are out-of-step with the law, and that a prosecution might fall if the jury considered ‘assistance out of compassion’ should not be an offence, even if told by a judge that it was (those old enough, might recall the Clive Ponting case {I think his first name was Clive – not certain}).

    Why does this matter ? Because firstly, ‘expert legal opinion’ isn’t like expert scientific opinion: ask a chemist ‘What would happen, if I poured fuming nitric acid into a beaker full of ethanol ?’ and ‘Nothing good if you are doing the pouring and standing next to the beaker’ is a pretty reliable answer, whereas many answers from legal experts, are far less certain.

    Secondly, lawyers ‘take sides’ – they represent their own clients. And, they will, I suspect, come up with arguments to support the position of their client. Throw in ‘and are often very defensive’ and ‘expert legal advice’ is often a major impediment to ‘getting sensible things done, and sensible improvements made’.

    Even more fundamentally, when things like Morecombe Bay or this non-published report happen, everyone ‘on the outside’ sees very clearly ‘that in common sense and moral terms, this is absurd and unacceptable’ but the people on the inside will tell you ‘our hands are tied for legal reasons’. I’m listening at the moment to Hunt on Radio 4, and you can be certain that his ‘desire for openness and transparency’ re the CQC, will be much ‘more nuanced’ if the issue is something the DH isn’t revealing, or the Cabinet wants to withhold, that other people want to see. Etc.

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  • To dispel any doubts on CQC current management integrity they should publish both the legal advice and the terms of reference they set for the advice. This would show if their intention was to conceal the guilty ones.

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  • michael stone

    patrick newman | 21-Jun-2013 1:21 pm

    'What we actually asked the lawyers' VERBATIM is always something those looking from the outside would find useful to know, and are usually not told.

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  • tinkerbell

    Probably find a loophole for 'verbatim' under FOI act with all the substance blacked out and the only words left, 'if, and, or, but' etc.,

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