Skip to main content

NHS England director appointed as chief inspector of hospitals

Published on: 2 Mar 2022

The Care Quality Commission has appointed an NHS England regional medical director as its new chief inspector of hospitals.

Sean O’Kelly will take over later in the spring, the regulator has confirmed. Ted Baker is due to retire at the end of March after five years as chief inspector and 50 in the NHS.

Dr O’Kelly is currently medical director and chief clinical information officer for NHS England and Improvement’s East of England regional teams.

He has worked as in several local, regional and national medical director posts over recent years, and also worked in the US.

His former roles include: director of paediatric cardiac anaesthesia at Michigan University, associate medical director at the Department of Health and Social Care, and medical director at University Hospitals Bristol, Salisbury and North Devon trusts.

While he was at Bristol, the trust’s CQC rating was moved from ”requires improvement” to “outstanding”, the first to improve two grades in one jump.

However, UHB’s senior management were severely criticised for a lack of openness for providing misleading information to the parents of a two year old boy who died from sepsis in 2015, during Dr O’Kelly’s time there. He and the trust have since apologised. 

Dr O’Kelly was chair of the Department of Health and Social Care’s National Steering Group on Cosmetic Surgery Regulation between 2005 and 2008 and has worked as a special adviser to the CQC.

Between Professor Baker’s departure at the end of March, and Dr O’Kelly joining later in “spring”, CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm will take on day-to-day responsibility of the hospitals for an interim period, the CQC said.

Mr Trenholm said: “Sean brings with him a wealth of professional and clinical leadership experience and a sound understanding of the healthcare landscape in which we regulate…

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ted for his tremendous contribution to CQC over the last eight years to develop and strengthen the way CQC regulates hospital services and support improvements in patient care.”

Dr O’Kelly said: “These are exceptionally challenging times and I’m committed to working with CQC colleagues, providers and other partners to support greater collaboration between services and across local systems as we strive to make our healthcare system as good as it can possibly be.”

Professor Baker had previously worked as CQC deputy chief inspector and medical director at Oxford Hospitals and Guy’s and St Thomas’; while his predecessor — the first chief inspector of hospitals — was Sir Mike Richards, who had worked as a national NHS England director and national clinical director for cancer care.