Does the Care Quality Commission (CQC) deserve all its recent criticisms? Does it actually perform against its own regulatory targets? Well, not according to the National Audit Office (NAO) which asserts that “there is a gap between what the public and providers expect of the CQC and what it can achieve as a regulator”.
Whilst a value for money debate, linked to under spends against a reduced budget target ensues, can the CQC claim any successes? It certainly has had an uphill struggle bringing together 3 existing regulators and implementing a new regulatory approach which for the first time integrates health and social care services. However as the CQC points out it has over 700 inspectors actively speaking to patients and staff and observing care. When necessary it forces providers to take action if they are not meeting essential standards of quality and care whilst registering over 40, 000 provider locations against tight timescales.
In evidencing its improving performance the CQC points out that “In October alone, we conducted more than 1,400 unannounced inspections. In the last three months we have recruited and trained over 100 additional inspectors. Our national report on our Dignity and Nutrition inspection programme – looking at the care older people receive in 100 acute hospitals – was published in October. The response it received from the public and the NHS demonstrates just how effective our regulatory system can be”
Further evidence of the CQC’s influence in improving standards of care can be seen in its report against a dental practice not meeting essential standards of care - the first dental provider to have been identified as such following the recent introduction of this group of providers to fall under the CQC regulatory system. Similarly, the investigations into the Barking, Havering and Redbridge hospital has identified serious failings across the organisation, whilst the CQCs second report into the use of the Mental Health Act has found that care for people treated under the Act needs to improve further.
With further inspections and unplanned visits throughout 2012 planned the CQC recognises that whilst everything may have not gone smoothly , lessons have been learned and changes made following the inevitable reviews. This has led it to assert that ‘we are now firmly on the right track and making rapid progress’
As its Chief Executive says, the CQC “are absolutely dedicated to protecting those who use health and social care services” – 2012 may well be the year when the CQC gains some yearned for credit and positive acknowledgment.