A legal and regulatory specialist in the health and social care arena has warned that with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reporting a marked rise in whistleblowers, care providers need to be well-prepared.
Speaking following an online session on the topic at Access All Areas on 10th March, Neil Grant, Partner at Gordons Partnership LLP, pointed to CQC data highlighting that whistleblowing had increased by more than 50% – to 6972 – in the year up to September 2020.
During the pandemic, the CQC has changed the way it operates with routine inspections stopped and the focus shifting to supportive conversations with care providers and managers. Neil says this inspection vacuum has led to more people coming forward.
“With CQC site visits reserved for services which are considered to present a significant risk to service users – more risk based inspections are being triggered as a result of information of concern. Of the 888 inspections in the year to September 2020, 53% were triggered by whistleblowers.
“Providers should be approaching whistleblowing incidents as they would complaints or accidents and have set processes in place to ensure safety and openness in leadership and management. Having the right culture in the business is essential and with more whistleblowers coming forward, the way providers are managing such instances is becoming even more critical to providing excellent care and gaining excellent ratings by CQC inspectors.”
In his session, which had hundreds of attendees, Neil looked at the upward trend and laid out the statutory framework surrounding whistleblowing, provided helpful guidance for the sector on whistleblowing organisational cultures, the role of external stakeholders, plus changes to the way the CQC regulates and how this will impact on care businesses.
Neil added: “The CQC is currently consulting on its new five year strategy which is informed by how it has adapted its regulatory model during the pandemic. Notably, there is an increased
emphasis on the importance of listening to service users, their families, current members of staff and former members of staff. Providers should be aware of how this might impact them.”