Cynthia Bower, the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, has resigned.
In a statement announcing her departure from the troubled quango, Bower said: “After almost four years leading the commission, 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.”
She will remain in post until the autumn and will continue to be paid until her departure but will not receive a final ‘lump sum’ payment.
Her decision to leave coincides with the publication of a Department of Health Performance and Capability review.
The review says that while the “CQC’s achievements are considerable and should not be underestimated” the regulator faced a number of difficulties that have “seriously challenged public confidence in its role”.
It says that in hindsight the DH and CQC underestimated the challenge involved in creating a new regulator but concludes that the watchdog “could have done more to manage operational risks”.
The report sets out a number of actions for the CQC to take to rectify the problems it faces. Among these are recommendations that the regulator becomes more strategic, improves accountability and take action over “a blurring of the boundary between the board and the executive team”. The review also tells the CQC to “raise its game” when it comes to working with other health and social care regulators.
In a letter to the DH, CQC chair Jo Williams said the organisation would set out what action it will take to improve its work in its 2012/13 business plan as suggested by the review.
Kay Sheldon, the CQC board member who called for Bowers to resign last November, welcomed her departure.
“This is the right decision,” she said. “I would like to see it as an opportunity for a robust debate on the future of regulation and its role in the quality of care. This doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the drawing board but the current approach has been developed reactively and without robust analysis and consultation.”
But Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, said CQC board members should also resign. “It is good news that Bowers has finally fallen on her sword,” he said. “But it is not enough. There are others who collaborated in the atrocious strategies adopted by this regulator and who cannot claim immunity from responsibility. We need a fresh start with the board of the commission and that can only mean a thorough spring clean.”
He added that seeing as the CQC needed people at the top who command trust and that the current board has lost that: “The board must take collective responsibility.”
Mike Padgham, chair of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said he hoped that the progress the CQC has begun to make will continue: “The search for a new chief executive gives the commission an opportunity to refocus its activities with the sectors it regulates and to ensure that social care is well represented in its future engagement.”