Bradshaw concerned about outcomes of review into RQIA board resignations

COVID-19 Health Paula Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has expressed concerns about the outcome of a review into resignations of the board of the watchdog responsible for oversight of care homes, especially the broader comments regarding governance overall.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) saw its board resign en masse last June, claiming they were not consulted on a number of decisions taken by the Department of Health, including inspections of care homes during the pandemic and deploying RQIA staff to other bodies.

The independent report states while the resignations were understandable, they were ‘not necessary or desirable particularly during a time of crisis,’ a finding welcomed by Health Minister Robin Swann.

“Given the admission the Department of Health issued a direction over the head of the RQIA board, it remains hard to see how the board had any option but to resign. I am surprised the review then seems to argue otherwise,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“While it is understandable staff had to be redeployed and the inspection regime had to change, the fact is the Health Committee and others could not get clarity from RQIA at a crucial time towards the start of the pandemic. Board members were not responsible for these failings, not least because they were unaware of them.

“This then leads to broader concerns about the comment in the review that it raises governance issues going beyond the Department and RQIA, yet it remains unclear quite how far beyond and what the nature of these issues is. Of direct concern would be whether sufficient consultation has been carried out on the abolition of the Health and Social Care Board and Local Commissioning Groups, given this process is now proceeding through the Assembly years after the original consultation.

“The review, in the end, leaves more questions than answers.”