You couldn’t make it up!

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25 January 2012

We submit, without comment, the following report from the edition of the UK’s Guardian newspaper for today 25 January 212.  We have used bold type to emphasise certain passages. We have also underlined proper names.

GAGGING ORDERS PLACED ON NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE WATCHDOG STAFF

by Rajeev Syal

A health watchdog with responsibility for protecting NHS whistle-blowers has asked at least six employees to sign confidentiality agreements that stop them from criticising the organisation publicly.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) asked the six….to sign a contract promising not to “make or repeat any statement which disparages or is intended to disparage the goodwill or reputation of the CQC or any specified person”.

The disclosure has allarmed one member of the [House of] Commons public accounts committee, which will question Cynthia Bower, the CQC boss today. Stephen Barclay, Tory MP [Member of Parliament] for Cambridge North East, said: “It is odd that a body that is supposed to be helping whistleblowers should be seeking to impose gagging orders.”……

The Department of Health…launched an inquiry into the CQC last November over alleged failures that could have jeopardised patient care.

Bower was appointed chief executive in July 2008. She was previously chief executive of NHS West Midlands and was criticised following an investigation into high mortality figures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in March 2009.

One of the commission’s first acts under her leadership was to disband the investigations team….

A CQC spokeswoman said: “Compromise agreements are commonly used in both the public and private sectors where contentious issues arise. Any suggestion that CQC’s compromise agreements could prevent whistle-blowing would be a dramatic misrepresentation of the facts.”

Editorial note: what the CQC calls “compromise agreements” the Guardian refers to as “confidentiality agreements”.

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