Regulator queries appointment of Paula Vennells in light of Post Office IT scandal

By Tony Collins

Regulators have written to a London NHS trust to query the appointment of its chair, Paula Vennells, and her fitness to fill the role, says the Health Service Journal.

Vennells, who is Imperial College Healthcare Trust’s chair, was the Post Office’s chief executive between 2012 and 2019. For much of that time – and before – sub-postmasters were being suspended, prosecuted and made bankrupt because of  non-existent losses that were shown as discrepancies on a flawed Post Office Horizon system.

In 2018 and 2019, the Post Office lost a succession of hearings in the High Court related to the  Horizon system and contracts with sub-postmasters. Although the Post Office has agreed to pay compensation, nearly all of it is going to lawyers.

Sub-postmasters affected by the scandal are unlikely to recover their losses.

Vennells took up the role at Imperial in April 2019. Now the Care Quality Commission has written to the trust, asking its board to provide information showing it “has followed a robust process to ensure that the person in question is fit and proper for their role”. The trust has 10 days to respond, says the Health Service Journal

Concerns about Vennells’ fitness as a trust chair were raised in 2019 by Minh Alexander, a former NHS consultant turned campaigner. She wrote to the CQC asking the agency to “look into whether Paula Vennells is a fit and proper person to be a director on an NHS trust board”.

The Health Service Journal says the CQC will not determine what is and what is not misconduct or mismanagement” but “will make a judgement about the provider’s decision,” such as whether the trust “acted reasonably when it made its determination”.

The Government will commit to holding an independent inquiry following a legal ruling affecting hundreds of subpostmasters, Boris Johnson has suggested.

Mr Johnson’s comments came as Labour’s Kate Osborne raised the “Post Office Horizon IT system scandal” during Prime Minister’s questions and urged him to “commit to launching an independent inquiry”.

Mr Johnson responded: “I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

Raising the issue in the Commons, Ms Osborne, the MP for Jarrow said: “Like many other subpostmasters my constituent Chris Head was victim to the Post Office Horizon IT system scandal.

“These errors have resulted in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicides. Will the Prime Minister today assure Chris and others that he will commit to launching an independent inquiry?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I am indeed aware of the scandal to which she alludes and the disasters that has befallen many Post Office workers and I am happy – I’ve met some of them myself – and I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

Inquiry over Horizon scandal?

Boris Johnson appears to have committed to holding an inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

Johnson’s comments came when answering questions in the House o Commons.  Labour’s Kate Osborne raised the “Post Office Horizon IT system scandal” and asked him to “commit to launching an independent inquiry”.

Johnson replied, “I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

Osborne said: “Like many other sub-postmasters my constituent Chris Head was victim to the Post Office Horizon IT system scandal.

“These errors have resulted in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicides. Will the Prime Minister today assure Chris and others that he will commit to launching an independent inquiry?”

Johnson replied: “I am indeed aware of the scandal to which she alludes and the disasters that has befallen many Post Office workers and I am happy – I’ve met some of them myself – and I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

Comment

The question  of fair compensation for sub-postmasters and accountability for the scandal ought to be central issues.
Meanwhile it would be a pity if Vennells on her own were held accountable for the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

2 responses to “Regulator queries appointment of Paula Vennells in light of Post Office IT scandal

  1. Thank you for the update, Tony.

    With so many scandals abounding, it’s imperative that the victims of this scandal are not forgotten or buried under the details of forthcoming ones.

    Thanks to Dr Alexander for assiduously carrying out her democratic duties and thank you for persevering with this shameful tragedy.

    Like

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