The Myth Of Independence

Is the term “independent” a weasel word as Nightingale describes (2014)?

What is meant by the term independent?

The following healthcare groups are described by DH as being independent-

CQC, RCN, NMC, GMC, Healthwatch, PHSO, various charity bodies such as AgeUK.

Yet they are actually linked to the government via their funding, to some degree. A registered charity for example relies on govt funding.

The RCN obtains government funding for certain research projects. An arm of the RCN is still a registered charity (RCN Foundation). Also consider RCN affiliations to seemingly opposing groups, some of which are actively involved in privatisation of the NHS (Nightingale 2014). Indeed why has the RCN been selected to represent all of UK nursing on the ICN committee- when just under 50% of nurses are actually members of the RCN?

The CQC is funded by the government- who else pays the wages?

This means that if the agency “upsets “ the govt in any way- funding may well be withdrawn. Consider for example if the RCN wanted to undertake a project concerning the Tory Governments lack of NHS funding or links of MPs to healthcare businesses.

Another way they are govt linked is by individuals who occupy the positions. Consider the NMC, top council members are “privy selected”, as are PHSO members and other regulatory bodies. Government departments in disguise (Nightingale). This means-the govt is involved in their selection and approval via the Queen. Somebody who opposes govt views- has no chance. Many have previous connections such as political employees.

Consider Healthwatch, some independent members are hospital trust managers or ex-Government employees. Just analyse the board or team members of your local Healthwatch- what were they previously linked to or members of ? Of course they will have been known in some capacity. Remember- the chair is actually paid a considerable sum as a salary by the government .

So what is the relevance of this?

Such groups will adhere to neoliberalistic political aims- privatisation and profit. This is evidenced by reports concerning the CCG which were described as being a “smokescreen for privatisation” (Andy Burnham in Hough 2014) .

Problems in the private sector may be covered up with their bias towards increasing its usage.

Further whilst all require lay members on committees, what is meant by “lay?” One may say with experience or somebody may say totally unconnected. Yet the same lay people tend to reappear on various committees- as Ann Ditch refers to them “shapeshifters”, and many have links to major charity or government bodies. Indeed how can a NHS trust hospital manager be defined as “lay?” Understandably people with experience on committees are required. Yet really why can’t Mr Jones who is seriously concerned about care as a member of the public or a relative, be considered? How long does it take someone to learn the functions and process of committee meetings? Are such committees in reality, aiming to keep “ordinary voices” out? On committees- if one opposes the general direction- he or she may be ousted or ignored.

Even campaigning groups established with good intentions, may become sucked up by this system, eventually keeping others out in order to maintain the overriding voice.

Committees may actually set off with good intent but reflect George Orwell Animal Farm “When pig looked from man to pig, no one could tell the difference”. Even more so with initial government links- or are they plants?

If the government is the piper, they dictate how people dance (Nightingale).

So any committee out there of campaigners or whatever they are, if you consider yourself to be truly independent, please let me know.


Hough K (2014) CCGs “A Smokescreen for Privatisation and Competition” 10.2 Background To PHSO


Nightingale N (2014)

ack Ann Ditch twitter “shapeshifters”


C Carol Dimon 2014


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