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03.02.15

CQC chief ‘stands by’ Hinchingbrooke report

The head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) insists that he stands by the recent report into Hinchingbrooke, which rated the trust’s services as ‘inadequate’, despite criticism from some MPs. 

The CQC had been accused of “traducing Hinchingbrooke's reputation” after it emerged that the hospital had complained of factual inaccuracies in the regulator’s report. 

During the evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Dr Hisham Abdel-Rahman, chief executive of Hinchingbrooke, said the trust had challenged the CQC over 300 factual errors in the draft inspection report, of which two-thirds were conceded by the CQC. 

David Behan, chief executive at the CQC, accepted that about 200 “errors” had been made in draft inspection reports, but he stood by the final report. 

At the heated hearing, Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, accused the health watchdog of relying on “anecdote and tittle-tattle” while conducting the inspection into the first NHS hospital trust managed under franchise by a private company, Circle. 

But Behan said: “I am not ashamed of myself. We undertook our investigation. We did find good care at Hinchingbrooke but we also found care that needs to improve and needs to improve quickly. 

“Our job is to judge that care impartially and fairly and that is what we have done,” he added. “We were surprised to find what we found at Hinchingbrooke, but the fact is that those patients and staff who spoke to us and raised concerns did speak to us and raise concerns and we need to take them into account.” 

Both Hinchingbrooke and the CQC have been ordered to provide the committee with their account of the disputed points. 

Steve Melton, chief executive of Circle, added that the company’s decision to pull out of the trust had been driven by increased patient numbers and cuts in payments – not the CQC report. 

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chair of PAC, stated that the decision to award the contract to Circle had been “rash” and that health service officials had “played down” the risks. 

However, Richard Douglas, director general of finance at the Department of Health, told the committee that there was nothing in Circle’s performance that would prevent them being considered for future contracts. 

But added: “I don’t think there will be any more of the kind of franchising we have had until we have resolved some issues.”

 (Image: c. PA)

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