The Health Service Journal has reported that the healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), will today (Wednesday, 4 June 2014) announce that Robert Francis QC will join its board as a non-executive director. Mr Francis QC, chaired the public inquiry into the scandal at Stafford Hospital that uncovered deep-seated problems of poor care and weak leadership. His findings were published in a report published in February 2013 with a list of 290 recommendations to bring about a fundamental cultural change in the way in which healthcare is delivered and the manner in which problems are identified and addressed.

The CQC came under fire for its role in the crisis at Stafford Hospital and for the way in which it investigated problems at other hospital trusts such as University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Part of the  response to Francis’ 290 recommendations was a radical change of approach in the way in which the CQC carried out its hospital inspections.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal and commenting on his appointment, Mr Francis QC said: “The CQC has a vital contribution to make towards people getting safe, compassionate and effective care. I am pleased to see that many of the recommendations I made in my reports on Mid Staffordshire for cultural change in the healthcare system and the CQC itself are being adopted. I hope to make a positive contribution to the work of CQC, supporting its current direction of travel and representing its work and its continuing development as a role model of transparency and openness”.

The chair of the CQC chair, David Prior, added: “The appointment of Robert Francis makes a very clear statement – the interests of patients, all those who receive care and their relatives will be at the heart of everything that CQC does”.

Mr Francis QC has been a leading barrister for many years in the areas of clinical negligence and healthcare law and, since his final report last year which is widely regarded as a watershed moment for patient safety in the NHS, he has taken other roles in patient-interest organisations such as becoming honorary president of the Patients Association. The appointment follows the appointment of another patient safety campaigner, James Titcombe, to the CQC as National Advisor on patient safety, culture and quality.