CQC whistleblower ‘subjected to mental health assessment’
The organisation’s chief executive Cynthia Bower stood down in February after a Government review endorsed Mrs Sheldon’s concerns about poor governance, poor leadership and unclear accountability.
Mrs Sheldon, a non-executive director at the CQC, had spoken out at the public inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire hospital last November.
On the same day, Dame Jo wrote to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley recommending that she be “immediately” suspended and “urgently” replaced.
According to The Independent, Mrs Sheldon was also subject to “priority monitoring” and declared a “risk” to the regulator.
After a short telephone conversation and without meeting Mrs Sheldon, 49, who has a history of depression, the doctor had described her as possibly suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia”.
He had also “strongly recommended” that Mrs Sheldon’s medical history be obtained “in confidence” and that she should be “assessed or else removed from her position”.
Dame Jo had then told the board that she planned to share this opinion with Mr Lansley and expressed concerns to the Department of Health officials.
The revelations are likely to further damage Dame Jo’s position at the CQC following patient safety failures at a number of hospitals under the watch of the regulator – which is supposed to be a safe point of contact for NHS whistleblowers.
Mrs Sheldon said she had only learned about the investigation into her mental health after receiving information held by the CQC under the Data Protection Act and that it was “scary” to discover the degree to which she was being monitored.
She said that while she had been “stressed and frustrated” because the important patient safety issues she was trying to raise were being “brushed under the carpet”, her mental health was “fine”.
Mrs Sheldon said: “I was not ill; I was just trying to do my job. I am very open about my mental health problems, but it feels like they tried to use it against me.
“This is a public body meant to be protecting people. It was completely outrageous.”
A report earlier this year concluded that Mrs Sheldon should be removed but Mr Lansley agreed last month that she should remain on the board.
A CQC spokesman said: “The CQC has a duty to its staff. If there are concerns about an individual’s mental health, the CQC may refer staff to its occupational health services.”