Let down by the one you love – CQC chair calls for ‘serious change’

David Prior, CQC chairman, suggests “serious change” is necessary to ensure the survival of his ‘beloved’ NHS.

In a recent newspaper article, David Prior, chairman of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), outlined his diagnosis of the problems with the health service and called for a “serious change” in culture, without which “the NHS will deliver poor care and ultimately go bust”.

As head of the health service regulator, Prior has 12 years of NHS experience to draw on, admitting he has mixed feelings towards the health service: “I love it…and yet am too often shocked by the behaviour I see.”

In order to salvage what he describes as “truly great humanitarian undertaking”, Prior called for “major long term change” to tackle the ageing populations and financial issues currently straining the health service, suggesting an increase in industry competition could “drive up standards”.

He also suggested that accountability and regulation – both by the CQC and the government – needed an overhaul to avoid Trusts “being blindsided by waiting targets that miss the point, skew priorities and have unintended consequences” for patients.

Prior also criticised internal organisational relationships and a management structure that was leaving a “them and us” mentality that “must be healed”:

“This means stronger clinical leadership and a workplace that encourages learning, openness and respect,” continued Prior.   

The full article, which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, was widely read and welcomed by much of the industry. Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association council, confirmed that Prior’s comments reflected the BMA’s own impression of “doctors frustrated by working in an NHS that needs to change”.   

The Department of Health, meanwhile, responded by maintaining that “significant changes to the NHS are already underway” and confirmed the government was working with the CQC “to drive this cultural change through rigorous, independent inspections under three powerful new chief inspectors.”