Chancellor ‘to step back’ from charity as regulator decides against probe

15 Nov 2022 News

Jeremy Hunt, chancellor of the exchequer

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will reduce his involvement with a charity, while the regulator has decided against investigating potential conflicts of interest at the organisation.

The Charity Commission confirmed it will not be taking further action with Patient Safety Watch, despite some sector lawyers warning there were risks of conflict of interest in how the charity’s accounts were scrutinised

Meanwhile, Hunt will no longer send updates to the Patient Safety Watch’s mailing list, with the charity saying his “appointment as chancellor means he has had to hand over the reins to someone else”.

Regulator not to investigate

Grunberg & Co, which conducts an independent audit of the charity’s financial accounts, was founded by one of the trustees of the charity David Grunberg.

The accountancy firm is also registered as the charity’s official address, and its telephone number redirects to the firm.

Shivaji Shiva, charity solicitor at VWV, previously warned that there is “a risk that this arrangement will be perceived as affecting the independence of the examiner”.

The chief executive’s pay has also sparked concern as Adam Smith, Hunt’s former aide and the charity's only employee, receives a salary worth up to 72% of the charity’s overall income. The charity is thought to be partly funded by Hunt and also accepts donations from the public on its website. 

A Charity Commission spokesperson told Civil Society News: “We have carefully assessed all concerns raised with us in line with our regulatory and risk framework, making sure we act proportionately and prioritise the most serious issues.

“In this case, we have assessed the information around Patient Safety Watch and do not consider there is a further role for the Commission.” 

No serious incident reports have been filed by Patient Safety Watch, the regulator confirmed. 

Civil Society News contacted Patient Safety Watch for comment but did not receive a response. 

Jeremy Hunt steps back from the charity  

In an email update to subscribers of Patient Safety Watch’s newsletter, the team announced that Hunt would be stepping back from the charity on account of his role as chancellor of the exchequer. 

The charity's newsletter updates will no longer be written by Hunt but by James Titcombe, a trustee of the charity, and come from Health Service Journal. 

“Although Jeremy has had to step back, the work of Patient Safety Watch continues,” the update reads.

It did not say whether Hunt would remain a trustee, but he is still listed as one on the Charity Commission's website.

In the next month, the charity expects to publish its first piece of research which has been carried out in partnership with Imperial College London. 

The charity was established in late 2019 but has not yet published any of its research. This is due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Its latest accounts read: “The decision was made that we would continue to work on our various research projects but, like the previous year, not to publish them whilst the NHS was under significant Covid-related pressure.”

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