The UK's web domain registrar, Nominet, has sacked its Chief Commercial Officer Jill Finney - formerly deputy chief executive of the Care Quality Commission - amid allegations that she was involved in covering up NHS failures over deaths of babies at a Cumbria hospital.
Former CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower also resigned from her post as a non-executive trustee of the Skills for Health lobbying body on Thursday, admitting: "the buck stops with me".
The two women are said to have been present at a meeting where the deletion of an internal review was discussed. The review criticised the regulator's inspections of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.
Finney and Bower have both denied being involved in a cover-up. However, CQC whistleblower Kay Sheldon claims to have been prevented from taking part in the Mid Staffs Public Inquiry on Patient Experience in October 2011.
"I was advised by Jill Finney that I could only attend as an observer, as a member of staff was already going as a participant," Sheldon said in a statement at the CQC accountability hearing.
"My personal data shows no member of staff was planning to attend and after my request Jill Finney ordered a member of staff to go saying it was "not optional," ie. I was deliberately prevented from attending as an active participant."
Nominet said in a statement that the increasing public scrutiny over Finney's former role at CQC has made it impossible for her to continue with her role and responsibilities at Nominet.
"With regret, we felt it necessary to terminate Jill Finney's employment with immediate effect. Ms Finney will be paid one month's salary in lieu of notice," the company said.
Finney was hired by Nominet in March on a reported salary of over £100,000. The CCO role had been newly created in order to "respond to the challenges of a liberalised domain name market," and Finney was responsible for managing Nominet's existing route-to-market.
The Guardian reports that, before the current controversy surrounding the CQC, Nominet had been poised to promote Finney to the board, with approval expected at a meeting next month.