Norman Lamb MP writes: Ensuring transparency and accountability in the Health Service

In recent months we have seen some shocking examples of failures of care within the health service. Tragic events such as those which occurred at the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital and the Winterbourne View Hospital have demonstrated a desperate need to ensure that people are held to account when awful things happen across the NHS and care services.

It is clear that we need to restore trust in health and care services. When a serious failing occurs it is simply unacceptable for patients and their families to be left in the dark or to feel that those responsible have not had to face appropriate repercussions.

That’s why I announced today the Government plans to introduce a series of measures designed to ensure that those in charge of health and care organisations are held properly to account for serious failings. These plans are part of a wider move to improve the quality of care in the health service across the board and to encourage an environment of openness and honesty about mistakes that are made.

Firstly, the plans will introduce a compulsory ‘fit and proper person test’ for directors and managers; this test would assess a director’s honesty and credibility and include background checks of their previous work with other providers. It would also include the power to require the removal from boards of individuals who are deemed inadequate for directorship.

Secondly, we are closing the loophole in the current system which means providers can escape prosecution even following cases of appalling abuse and neglect. Currently, when a provider fails to meet standards in care the CQC first has to issue a warning notice. That provider can, however, escape further repercussions so long as they comply with the CQC warning notice’s terms. This has meant that, shockingly, there has not been one prosecution of a provider since the CQC was established. Closing this loophole will make it far easier for the CQC to prosecute following a provider failing to meet basic standards in care.

The events at Winterbourne View Care Home – where people with learning disabilities experienced horrendous abuse at the hands of care workers – clearly demonstrates the need to hold bosses to account across health and care services.  If private companies provide a service or run a care home, the company and its directors must appreciate that they are taking on responsibility for the wellbeing of highly vulnerable individuals and, and this is something they need to take very seriously.

We are taking huge steps forward in ensuring a culture of transparency and honesty within the health service; the independent Francis Inquiry into the failings which occurred at the Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust made a number of recommendations which are already being put into practice. Among these are a commitment to ensuring additional support for whistle-blowers and the introduction of new criminal offences for when health organisations publish false or misleading data on their performance. Today’s announcement on tackling corporate accountability across the health and care system is another vital step to improving patient care and restoring trust in our NHS and care service. We cannot prevent mistakes from occurring within the NHS, but we can make sure that those at the top of an organisation are properly held to account when they allow dreadful things to occur.

* Norman Lamb is MP for North Norfolk and was Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health until May 2015. He now chairs the Science and Technology Select Committee

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4 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jul '13 - 12:00pm

    Norman Lamb

    Among these are a commitment to ensuring additional support for whistle-blowers

    Extending the period during which people newly in post can be sacked for no reason is the opposite of this. It is often the case that when someone is newly appointed they can see what is wrong, try to do something about it, and wham-bam, out you go, here’s your compromise agreement, dare to say a word about it, and we’ll demand the money we back which we gave you to keep silent.

  • Melanie Harvey 5th Jul '13 - 1:03am

    I have to laugh quite honestly… The CQC replaced the HCC who had provided all the info etc on how to just ignore anything in claims.. as the HCC was about to get busted for what it was doing hey presto it closed and became the CQC.. oh and all at the right time for all the info to be sold to the US for them to use in connection to Obamacare !!! people being guinea pigs and info providers is all it is and without consent or full knowledge of what is being done with their personal records.. just a sick experiment..

  • Robert Wootton 5th Jul '13 - 11:46am

    The people who should be running the NHS are the representatives of the Patients Association, the RCN, the BMA, the RCM and the RCS. The NHS should organised according to the neuro-physiological principles that will enable continuous algedonic monitoring of of every sector of the NHS. Then everyone involved in the NHS would be able to see how a particular service is performing relative to how the same service is performing in another geographical location of the NHS.
    For instance, if the mortality rate is significantly better than another in the same category of medical intervention, this could be investigated by the professiona organisation concerned. If a better way of carrying out the intervention is discovered, this could be communicated throughout the service. If a significantly lower mortality rate in an area of the service is noted by a professional organisation, this could be remedied in a timely manner.

    The NHS needs to be made self-regulating, self-adapting and self learning according to the neuro-physiological systemic principles already establiched amongst the scientific community.

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