Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation says the NHS needs a new wave of CQC inspections “like a hole in the head.”
The CQC (Care Quality Commission) has confirmed that routine inspections of care facilities will begin again over the summer. Inspectors are already scheduling inspections of higher risk services for the summer months, with a managed routine to routine inspection of lower risk services planned for the autumn.
“The NHS is embarking on what could well be the most challenging period in its history and this will not help,” says Niall.
“Health leaders recognise the important role of regulation – it can shine a light on good and bad practice, it holds service to account for quality and value for money. But the absence of routine inspections over the last three months has created a period of respite as staff have struggled to beat this virus. That battle is not over. Indeed, a set of bigger challenges remain – dealing with the backlog of care, continuing to treat thousands with coronavirus, and being prepared for another surge and what will be a very difficult winter. And all of this with concerns over staff burnout.”
Niall Dickson argues that the sector should first seek to learn the lessons from the pandemic before returning to the old inspection regime. He says: “There is an opportunity to reset the way that we think about inspection, regulation and governance and it is an opportunity our members are keen to explore. Let’s not rush back to the way things were. We will seek to work with the CQC to make sure the views of our members inform their thinking on the future approach to regulation and inspection.”
Although routine inspections were suspended in March, the CQC says it has continued to inspect in response to risk and concerns raised and has introduced an additional monitoring tool – the Emergency Support Framework (ESF). This tool helps to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on staff and people using services and identify where an inspection may be necessary or escalation of concerns to partner organisations. The CQC intends to adapt the ESF tool to be used alongside its responsive visits.
During the pandemic there has been an increase in calls to CQC’s national contact centre from staff raising concerns about care. Analysing these calls, the CQC has identified that biggest increase has come from staff in the adult care sector and many calls also related to lack of PPE or other infection control products. However, 32% of calls included concerns about how infection control or social distancing was being practiced at the service they worked in.
In hospitals, (including mental health and independent services), 12 inspections have been conducted since the cessation of routine inspections, of which seven were as a result of concerns raised by staff or members of the public. The remainder were in response to notifications from the provider or information from key stakeholders.