The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has ushered in ‘radical changes’ to the way hospitals in England are inspected, as it begins a new programme of inspections this week.
Led by the regulator’s new chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, the inspections will involve significantly larger teams – called inspection panels – including doctors, nurses and other experts and trained members of the public.
They will cover every site that delivers acute services and eight key services areas: A&E; medical care (including frail elderly); surgery; intensive/critical care; maternity; paediatrics/children’s care; end of life care; outpatients.
The inspections will be a mixture of announced and unannounced visits, as well as inspections in the evenings and weekends.
Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: “There is every chance that the first inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission’s new inspection panels will be under as much scrutiny themselves as they apply to the organisations they visit.
“In developing its new programme, the CQC consulted widely with stakeholders. We are keen to see this openness continue as the CQC refines how it inspects and assesses NHS organisations.
“Between them, our members deliver every aspect of healthcare. It is crucial that the inspection process reflects that, and while there are some non-negotiable fundamentals which every organisation must meet, intelligent inspection will fully recognise the essential variations between organisations and sectors” he said.
“Additionally, we must not forget that external inspection and expertise is hugely valuable and welcomed by the NHS, but the responsibility to provide patients with the highest standards rests first and foremost with hospitals staff and leaders.”
Effective but not ‘overly burdensome’
On the issue of bureaucracy, Mr Farrar said: “It is crucial that the new inspection programme is effective without being overly burdensome.
“We want all those involved in the inspection programme to use the first tranche of inspections to iron out any creases in processes and design, and get rid of any duplication that diverts valuable staff time and resources away from care.
“It would be ludicrous if, in inspecting how and how well NHS organisations deliver quality health care, we prevent them actually doing it.”
Pulling in the same direction
On involvement of patients in inspection panels: “The new inspection panels include individuals with expertise gained as both professionals and patients. This bodes well for the new regime, because quality will improve faster and further if all those wanting to see it happen are pulling in the same direction.