The Care Quality Commission has been unable to appoint any new non-executive directors for months because of delays in ministerial sign-off, leading to the regulator flagging its concerns about the potential impact on its governance with the National Audit Office.
The regulator advertised for three non-executive directors last summer – including the chair of Healthwatch England, which is “hosted” by the CQC. Applications closed in September. However, the Department of Health and Social Care is yet to approve any of the CQC’s preferred appointments.
This could leave the regulator inquorate – with its board unable to operate – if any of the remaining NEDs left. HSJ understands the CQC has raised the issue in a meeting with the National Audit Office, to discuss short-term mitigations to the delay. Belinda Black – a current CQC NED – has been appointed interim chair of Healthwatch England. Her tenure was extended to 31 July this week.
The discussions with the NAO concerned the potential impact on the CQC’s governance of becoming inquorate and were part of routine audit work. The NAO has no role in the appointment of NEDs for any government arms-length body.
Delays in sign-off are understood to be with the health and social care secretary Steve Barclay, who is said to be closely reviewing many more decisions than recent predecessors.
The CQC is not the only national agency affected by apparent delays. Adverts for NEDs for NHS Blood and Transplant and the UK Health Security Agency were posted in July, with no appointments made so far. The Health Services Safety Investigations Body (the newly independent HSIB) also advertised for NEDs earlier this year.
Locally, South West London Integrated Care Board has been without a chair since last summer, despite an advert being issued in October.
The job advert for CQC NEDs said the regulator was looking for candidates to be available from October 2022 but added that “an alternative start date in early 2023 would also be suitable”.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm told the regulator’s board there was also a delay in getting ministerial sign-off on the job description for the NED who would chair its audit and risk assurance committee.
The CQC board is currently chaired by Ian Dilks, the senior independent director of Royal London Insurance and former NHS Resolution chair. Other NEDs include Stephen Marston and Mark Chambers. Ali Hasan and Jora Gill are associate NEDs.
A DHSC spokeswoman said: “Following a recent recruitment round for non-executive directors for the CQC, the recommendations of the assessment panel are now with ministers for a decision.”