The CQC's chair Peter Wyman recently announced that the regulator is planning to shift its approach to inspections of health and social care providers, noting that its inspectors gather more tangible findings during an unannounced inspection. In addition, we understand that the CQC’s inspections of NHS trusts will be replaced with more unannounced visits and focused inspections, which the CQC considers will be more time efficient and not necessarily require the presence of the trust’s leadership team.

In making this announcement, Mr Wyman said that care providers currently spend a great deal of time and money preparing for comprehensive inspections, which may not be a catalyst for driving real improvements to the quality of their services if they are focussed on a short term goal of getting through the inspection.

Role of the wider system and whistleblowers

The CQC’s chair also urged “the system” (e.g. commissioners, patients and families) to flag inadequate providers before the CQC carries out inspections. He emphasised the role of market forces and patient choice in driving the quality of providers.

It has also been reported in the health and social care press that whistleblowers’ complaints to the CQC have resulted in 40 providers having inspections instigated or brought forward in the last year (“Revealed: CQC inspects 40 providers after whistleblower concerns”, Sharon Brennan, Health Service Journal 13 April 2017).

Comment

The move towards more unannounced inspections may mark a shift for non-residential adult social care and NHS trusts, but less so for residential adult social care and hospice services, which are already used to unannounced inspections. It is perhaps unsurprising that whistleblowers’ complaints have led to inspections being instigated and it is likely that this will continue. This emphasises the importance of having an appropriate whistleblowing policy in place to give staff the opportunity to raise issues internally, thereby seeking to avoid whistleblowing reports to the CQC and to ensure that any issues raised have been promptly addressed in the interests of facilitating ongoing regulatory compliance and continual improvement to the services provided before the next inspection takes place.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this article, please contact our Health and Social Care or Public & Regulatory teams who have extensive experience in acting for health and social care providers, including in relation to CQC regulation and inspections and whistleblowing.


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Abbie Rumbold

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Claire Whittle

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Emma Dowden-Teale

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Posted on 18/04/2017 in Legal Updates

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