Friday, 6 December 2013

Weston PB4Profits makes formal complaint over CCG Chair's Conflict of Interest

Today the Campaign has made its formal complaint to the NS Clinical Commissioning Group against the conflict of interest of its Chair, Kathy Headdon, who is also a consultant for one of the corporations interested in WGH. Here is the text:

Dr Mary Backhouse
North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group
Post Point 11,
Tickenham Road
North Somerset
BS21 9BH

Dear Mary

I am sorry to have to make a formal complaint against the Clinical Commissioning Group on behalf of the Weston Hospital Patients Before Profit Campaign. I know that complaints are distressing for the recipient, and we do not undertake this lightly, but only because we believe that the long term medical interests of the people of North Somerset will be benefited by our action.

Our complaint is that there is a clear conflict of interest for Kathy Headdon in holding the chairmanship of the NSCCG (and also the Stakeholder and Quality Assurance Group, though this does not concern the CCG directly) while also holding a consultant position within Capita Symonds Ltd, one of the corporations who have expressed an interest in the WGH franchise, as a consultant. There is a clear and direct conflict of interest here. In addition, as Chair of the NS CCG she has to have "Experience of giving an independent view on possible internal conflicts of interest", and her own CoI will clearly inhibit her discharge of this role within the CCG.

We have read the response of the Group, which is that she will absent herself from discussion when Capita is under discussion, and we are not satisfied. There is much more to the dynamics of a committee’s thought processes than the precise words spoken in specific debate. There is an ethos and an emotional undercurrent at play at all times in any group of people, but especially with a decision-making committee. One of the most onerous decisions that your committee and the Project Board face is whether the partner organisation chosen for WGH should be NHS or private. We cannot be persuaded to believe that is it possible that such a decision could be made in a neutral and balanced way when the Chair of the Committee is known to be a consultant for a private corporation.

If, despite our representations here, Kathy Headdon stays in position, and ultimately the decision is made to give the franchise to a corporation, the campaign will not accept the decision, and will request a Judicial Review. The Committee should also consider that a rival corporation might also request a Judicial Review. I do not need to remind you of the financial and opportunity costs implicit in defending your decision in a Judicial Review, costs which will diminish the service that the Hospital can offer to the community.

It is for these reasons that our Campaign is making a formal complaint, and having exhausted all local processes, is prepared, regretfully, to take our complaint to the NHS Ombudsman.


Richard Lawson

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