Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that an independent review will take place into the circumstances surrounding the resignation of the entire board of Northern Ireland’s health watchdog.
The board of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) stepped down on Monday after expressing concern over the decision to scale back inspections of care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They were also concerned at the departure of a number of senior figures in the RQIA in recent months, with both the chief executive Olive Mcleod and medical director leaving to take up other roles in the health service.
In a statement, the board said these decisions diluted the RQIA's independence to protect vulnerable adults in residential and nursing homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
Speaking during Tuesday afternoon’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Swann said he was “sorry” that the situation had got to this stage and said his department took its decisions “in the teeth” of a full scale emergency.
David Nicholl of Onboard-training will lead the review and Mr Swann stated that he looks forward to receiving his objective analysis.
“I am of course sorry that it got to this point,” commented Mr Swann. “The department took decisions at pace in the teeth of a full scale emergency.
“Similar decisions were taken in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland and there were reasons for those decisions.
“Whilst the resignations are regrettable, I am confident that they will have no impact on the day-to-day work of the RQIA.
“I continue to have total confidence of the staff that continue to work for that organisation.
“Within hours of the former board members resigning, I moved to appoint Christine Collins MBE as the new interim chair.
“I am confident that Christine will further strengthen the voice of people who use the health and social care system, something I am personally very keen to say.”
Mr Swann continued by saying that he is committed to improving regulation of Northern Ireland’s care sector and in securing “a better future” for care homes through investment and reform.
“I recognise, however, that the board resignations will have caused some concern so today I am announcing an independent review into exactly what happened,” he added.
“I have asked David Nicholl of Onboard-training to undertake a review of the circumstances that gave rise to the recent events in RQIA.
“David has a wealth of experience in this area and is a highly respected, independent figure, and I look forward to receiving his objective analysis of the position.”