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Radio Ombudsman: Sir David Behan on the transformation of the Care Quality Commission

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

I recently sat down with Sir David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, to record our latest Radio Ombudsman podcast. 

In January 2018, Sir David announced he would be stepping down, but he pledged to continue in the role until the summer to allow for a successor to be appointed. I was pleased to get the opportunity to talk to him before he embarks on his well-earned retirement. 

The Health Service Journal has rated Sir David as one of the most powerful people in the Health Service and he is the person responsible for turning around and restoring confidence in the Care Quality Commission.

A desire to make a difference

Our discussion began with Sir David reflecting on his background as the son of textile mill workers in Blackburn. He explained how his voluntary work with homeless people and his desire to make a difference led him to launch a career in social work. 

Sir David has worked in a range of roles in the public sector including Director of Social Services in local government, and a senior social care policy-maker in the Department of Health. He was also the first Chief Inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

Sir David’s candid responses to my questions revealed his very personal reasons for taking on these roles, and how his social work background influenced his choices and shaped his contributions.

Organisational reform

What was particularly interesting was to hear more about how Sir David led the transformation of the Care Quality Commission. Many of the principles he subscribed to in organisational reform are reflected in our own recently published strategy

In particular, he spoke about the importance of getting an organisation’s core purpose right, of developing and engaging people, and being clear about values and behaviours, which struck a chord.

In our very wide ranging discussion we talked about the importance of transparency, accountability and partnership working. Sir David describes transparency as providing ‘oxygen and sunlight to allow good practices to grow in organisations’. 

Future challenges

The importance of organisations learning from mistakes was another shared focus. Sir David shared his views on what he sees as the biggest systemic vulnerabilities to healthcare at the moment. He also highlighted key challenges for the future, for example, the ageing population and the necessity for integrated care systems.

Career advice 

Drawing on the experience gained over the course of his long career, Sir David also had some wise advice for young people who are just starting out on their own public service careers such as: try and align your values with your organisation’s and enjoy your work.

Listen now

I encourage you to listen to the podcast below. There is much valuable learning and insight. I want to thank Sir David again for taking the time to share his thoughts before he stands down from the CQC, and to wish him a restful ‘decompression’ period before embarking on his next steps.