24 Jun 2013

CQC scandal: Jill Finney denies ‘cover-up’ claim

Jill Finney, who is at the centre of allegations of a cover-up over baby deaths at a Cumbria hospital, denies ordering a critical report to be deleted.

Deputy chief executive of the Care Quality Commission Jill Finney

An independent review found the former deputy chief executive of the Care Quality Commission was one of three officials who in 2011 backed the suppression of an internal report into CQC’s failure to spot the scandal.

But Ms Finney has denied ordering a cover-up. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There was not a decision at that meeting to delete a report nor was there an instruction.

“At that meeting we reviewed the report and the report concluded that the activity that CQC had undertaken at Morecambe Bay was satisfactory.

“It was quite clear on reading the report that the activity was not satisfactory and CQC should have done more, so at that meeting we agreed that the report required much further work.”

Defending her position, she said that the report was “the first thing” she pointed out to Grant Thornton when they were brought in to conduct the external review and urged them to read it.

‘Media feeding frenzy’

The names of Ms Finney and the other senior figures accused of a cover-up were initially redacted from the Grant Thornton report but later revealed by the CQC after a public outcry.

She complained that she had been subjected to a “media feeding frenzy” without any notice.

“If CQC felt that they wanted to produce a report where they named and shamed individuals in the public domain then they should have made sure that they followed a fair process,” she said.

“They did not follow a fair process. We made several representations to Grant Thornton about the accuracy of the way in which they were recording the information and the way in which they were beginning to treat one allegation as (an) act.

“Grant Thornton did not reply and did not change the way in which the allegations were presented.

“At that meeting I did no such thing and as a result of the way in which they redacted the names, what they generated was a complete media feeding frenzy. The first time I saw the final report was when I read it online on Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning the media feeding frenzy had begun.”

The first time I saw the final report was when I read it online on Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning the media feeding frenzy had begun – Jill Finney

The CQC’s Louise Dineley, who wrote the internal review, claims she confronted senior management with her critical findings but that Ms Finney ordered it to be deleted.

Cynthia Bower, then CQC chief executive, and media manager Anna Jefferson also deny any attempted cover-up at the meeting.

Ms Finney suggested that a lack of sufficient resources meant it was “always going to be a very, very tall order” for the CQC to do its job effectively.

“The fact that the regulatory activity in Morecambe Bay could have been better was undoubtedly a feature of the very, very sizeable agenda CQC had to lead.”

Ministers had been warned it would be “challenging” when the body was set up, she said.

The new management “has received substantially more funding”, she said.

“It is able to employ more professional staff then we were able to do and to recruit people who are of a higher level of seniority.”