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Review into RQIA resignations ‘lacks credibility’

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Review: Robin Swann

Review: Robin Swann

Review: Robin Swann

Former members of a health watchdog's board have said an independent review ordered into their mass resignation "lacks credibility".

There was shock after all nine members of the board of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority quit last month after claiming they hadn't been consulted over decisions taken over coronavirus policies.

These included reducing care home inspections and the re-deployment of the RQIA chief executive, Olive McLeod.

The board had said "this entirely undermined the governance role of the board who remained corporately liable and accountable for those decisions".

They resigned, and in the aftermath, Health Minister Robin Swann announced a review into the row.

Its terms of reference are being drafted by the Department of Health's Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, and Mr Swann is expected to sign off on the final document.

But in a statement last night, the former board members criticised the arrangements being put in place, saying they "were neither consulted on the terms of reference of the review nor were they sent a copy of its contents".

The statement continued: "It is the considered view of former board members that the review as proposed lacks credibility in that it neither addresses fundamental aspects of the Department's behaviour or that of its senior officials, which left board members with no other option but to resign."

The former board members also said they were concerned over a potential conflict of interest in the Permanent Secretary drafting the terms of reference "when he, along with the Chief Medical Officer, Dr McBride, have been centrally involved in issuing directives and making key decisions for which the board of RQIA had no input and could therefore not stand over".

They added: "The review also needs to address the actions of senior officials in the Department of Health who by-passed the authority and accountability of the board at a critical time and, without reference to the board, redeployed the RQIA's most senior staff.

"The former board recognises that while the circumstances were unprecedented, this did not negate the need for effective governance and timely communication." The Department of Health told the BBC that the review will "establish the facts".

"The terms of reference for the independent review are published and are self-evidently comprehensive in their nature," it said.

"They make clear the review will examine the circumstances that gave rise to the RQIA board resignations, will establish the facts and lessons to be learned and make recommendations for the consideration of the minister.

"It will cover the roles and responsibilities of the department, the RQIA non-executive board members and the RQIA executive team, and include interviews with relevant individuals including department officials."

Belfast Telegraph