A report by the Public Accounts Committees finds serious weaknesses in the regulator
Staff shortages are hampering the performance of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England.
This is the finding of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), which has today described the CQC as ‘behind where it should be, six years after it was established, in that it is not yet an effective regulator’.
In its 12 Report of this Session, the PAC highlights the significant impact staff shortages are having on the CQC’s ability to complete its inspection programme, and identifies weaknesses in the consistency, accuracy and timeliness of its initial draft reports.
The CQC is a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Health. Its purpose is to ‘make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high quality care, and to encourage them to improve’, through carrying out inspections.
Today’s report finds the CQC is behind on its inspection programme and is not, therefore, fulfilling its duty. It has struggled to recruit inspectors and analysts with the right skills; by mid-April 2015, the vacancy rate was 34 per cent for inspectors, 36 per cent for senior analysts and 35 per cent for managers. At this time the CQC did not expect to reach full complement for inspectors until June 2016.
Staff turnover in 2014-15 was nearly 8 per cent, much higher than the 5 per cent target rate, and was still at this rate for the first two quarters of 2015-16. Because of these staff shortages, the CQC is behind its original target dates for completing its programme of inspections.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, also highlighted problems with the CQC’s draft reports:
“One NHS Foundation Trust told us staff had identified more than 200 errors in a draft Commission report, including data inaccuracies. The fact these errors were picked up offers some reassurance but this is clearly unacceptable from a public body in which taxpayers are placing their trust.
“Recruitment at the Commission is going too slowly, meaning too many members of the public don’t have up-to-date independent information about the quality of services provided. It is vital the public is clear on what the Commission has actually inspected, and when.
“If the Commission is to properly fulfil its duty to taxpayers we must see improvements in the way it collects, acts upon and publishes information. At the same time it should set out a coherent plan for managing its new responsibilities.
“When the Commission falls short, there must be robust measures in place to enable parliament and the public to hold it to account.”
The Commission has been working with the Department of Health to implement significant changes, under a three-year transformation programme between 2013-14 and 2015-16.
This is following a 2012 report by the PAC which expressed serious concerns about the Commission’s governance, leadership and culture, and its failure to intervene quickly or strongly enough in failing providers of health or social care services.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot ForwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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