On 16 February 2021, Shadow Minister Chi Onwurah asked the Department of Health and Social Care the written question, “… when the Care Quality Commission will resume routine inspections; and how many care homes have not had an inspection for two years or more.”
Helen Whatley, Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) responded to the written question and said the following:
“At the start of the pandemic, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) paused routine inspections and adopted a risk-based approach utilising a range of information to target inspections where concerns are identified, such as localised outbreak data, whistleblowing, and data shared through system partners. Over the last six months, the CQC has carried out 4,300 inspections in adult social care.
The CQC currently regulates 15,403 nursing and care homes. 6,056 of these have not had a cross-threshold inspection for two years or more. However, the CQC routinely interacts with care homes in a variety of ways outside of inspections, such as through regular engagement with registered managers, and through its Emergency Support Framework (ESF), developed during the pandemic to allow it to have structured, supportive, monitoring calls with providers. Additionally, since 1 April 2020, 17,273 individual adult social care locations have received an ESF call. The CQC’s future strategy will build on this experience and continue to involve more targeted and dynamic inspection visits.”
In Helen Whatley’s response to Chi Onwurah’s written question, she refers to CQC’s Emergency Support Framework as a tool developed by CQC, “to allow it to have structured, supportive, monitoring calls with providers.” Helen Whatley also said that, “The CQC’s future strategy will build on this experience and continue to involve more targeted and dynamic inspection visits.”
CQC’s consultation paper on its future strategy states, “We’ll use our regulatory powers in a smarter, more proportionate way so we take the right action at the right time. Based on the best information available, and enabled by technology, we’ll be proactive in using innovative analysis, including data science techniques, to support robust and proportionate decision-making. Combined with the experience, knowledge, and professional judgement of our inspectors, this means we’ll be alert and ready to act quickly in a more targeted way and tailor our regulation to individual services and circumstances.”
Whilst CQC’s intelligence led risk monitoring approach suggests that CQC will be able to assess risk in real time which is a good thing, there is a chance that information will be missed and it all depends on the accuracy of the intelligence gathered by CQC. CQC needs to ensure that any information gathered is properly verified and used to inform proportionate decision making.