The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has responded to the Public Account Committee’s report out today (Friday 11 December 2015) on its performance as the country’s regulator of health and adult social care.
The report acknowledges that since 2012, CQC has made “substantial progress” in strengthening the way that it monitors, inspects and regulates hospitals, care homes, general practices and other services to make sure that people get safe, high-quality and compassionate care. However, there are areas to improve, which the organisation is already proceeding with.
In particular, the timeliness of its inspection reports, CQC’s ongoing recruitment drive, how it responds to information of concern, and how CQC develops and provides reassurance about its readiness to take on its new responsibility to assess the use of resources within NHS trusts from April 2016, have been recommended as particular priorities. Improvements have been made in all of these areas.
David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission said: “We are pleased that the Public Accounts Committee has acknowledged the “substantial progress” that the organisation has made over the last three years and we have continued to make progress.
“We have always maintained that there is more we have to do, in particular with regards to improving the timeliness of our reports and inspecting all health and adult social care services. These are not new issues and we have been working hard to improve our performance. We have reported on our progress in public every month and we will continue to do so. What is essential is that we do not take any shortcuts, which could compromise the quality of the important work that we do.
“We have surveyed the public and they tell us they are increasingly confident in our new and more rigorous approach to inspection that provides them with better information about the quality and safety of care.
“We are not complacent and are working confidently to continue to improve what we do and how we do it. We look forward to reporting to the PAC in the summer on the progress we have made.”
David commented: “We are pleased to have made progress with our recruitment efforts. We set ourselves a target to have appointed 600 inspectors by the end of this calendar year and already, we have successfully appointed 627 new inspectors – that’s six weeks’ early. Not only that, but we have appointed 96 new inspection managers and 68 new intelligence colleagues, bringing our total number of appointments in the last 14 months to 791. Work continues to fill priority vacancies and we will continue to report on our progress in public. We will never compromise the quality of our recruitment, our inspections or our judgements.”
David commented: “We are working hard to proceed with our comprehensive, planned inspection programme, so that we can continue to deliver robust judgements of services that the public can trust and that providers can both act on and learn from. We remain committed to responding to risk and checking that where needed, improvements have been made. Last year [2014/15], we carried out nearly 17,900 inspections – over 3,500 of these were to follow up on a previous problem or directly in response to new concerns. We will continue to monitor this position and report publicly on developments.”
Timeliness of inspection reports
David commented: “We are committed to making sure the public has accurate, timely and clear information about the quality and safety of their services. We are improving in this area as more inspectors join the organisation and are trained. Last month, over two thirds (68%) of our reports published within 50 working days. We will continue to report on our performance in our public Board meetings. Importantly, the timeliness of our reports does not affect the ability of providers to improve their services. All are briefed on immediate issues and concerns, either during or immediately after our inspections. Also, we share our draft reports with providers early on as part of our factual accuracy checks – this is a process that we actively encourage them to participate in and it helps them to begin to make the required improvements.”
Development of NHS ‘use of resources’ responsibility
David commented: “We will continue to work with providers, the public, our partners and staff to ensure we are ready to take on this responsibility from next April. Having outlined our initial proposals in October, we will hold a full public consultation on this in the New Year as part of our wider strategy for the next five years. Our focus is on working with the providers, the public and others to develop the right model for how we will inspect the use of resources of NHS hospitals.”
Responding to information of concern
David commented: “Acting on the views of people who use services, as well as the concerns of health and social care staff, is a key component of our regulatory approach.
“There are a number of was that we do this already, such as through our contact centre, website, social media, focused events and during our inspections. As well as that, we have a number of partnerships and agreements with bodies that represent them. We will continue to build their views into our work.
“Last year [2014/15], we received around 80,000 types of information of concern, including complaints, staff reporting poor care, and safeguarding alerts. We act on all information we receive, which can include using this to inform an inspection.
“We carried out nearly 17,900 inspections last year [2014/15] – over 3,500 of these were to follow up on a previous problem or directly in response to new concerns.”