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CQC chief executive quits after critical DH review

Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower resigned today after the Government published a wide-ranging review that was critical of the regulator’s work.

The Department of Health review concluded the CQC had ‘underestimated’ the scale of the task of registering providers, and ‘could have done more to manage risks during the early years of the organisation’s operation’.

The review said the role of the regulator had ‘not been as clear as it needs to be to health and care providers, patients and the public’ – despite recognising it had made improvements over the past nine months by increasing inspection staffing and focusing more on its core duties of registering and inspecting healthcare providers.

Pulse recently revealed how CQC registration is running over budget, with dozens of dental practices and private GP practices failing to secure registration.

Ms Bower said: ‘After almost four years leading CQC, I feel that it is now time to move on. The process of setting up an entirely new system of regulation has been intensely challenging – but we have accomplished an enormous amount. We have merged three organisations, registered 40,000 provider locations and brought virtually the entire health and social care network under one set of standards, which focus on the needs of people who use services.’

‘I am pleased that the review recognises the scale of what has been achieved – and in particular the significant improvements made over the last nine months.’

Una O’Brien, permanent secretary of the Department of Health, said: ‘Cynthia has provided energetic leadership to the CQC from its very outset. Over her four years as chief executive, the CQC has introduced – for the first time – a new model of regulation for health and social care.  Cynthia is a committed public servant and I wish her well for the future.’

Ms Bower will remain in post until the Autumn to allow for an appropriate handover, with the recruitment process for her successor to begin shortly.

The DH review made a series of recommendations for the CQC to drive improvement, including:


• The CQC must become more strategic and set out more clearly what success looks like.

• The Board should be strengthened with the appointment of additional members and that there should be clearer arrangements between the Board and the Executive to ensure that the Board is holding the operation of the CQC to account.

• The CQC should build an evidence base for its regulatory model to demonstrate and ensure confidence in its effectiveness.

• Frontline inspectors should have greater access to individuals with professional experience, such as doctors, nurses or social care experts. There should also be more consistency in how inspections are carried out and there should be enough inspectors to meet future demand.

Responding to the review, CQC chair Jo Williams said: ‘We take seriously the recommendations of the review and have a desire to make further progress on all areas of the review.’