CQC to increase frequency but reduce scope of hospital inspections

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

From April 2017 the way that CQC inspects hospitals will change and we will see the regulator move to a more targeted inspection approach. CQC will move away from the large inspections of NHS trusts which have taken place over the past three years following the Mid-Staffordshire scandal.

Part of the reason for this move is to allow CQC to function more efficiently within its reduced budgetary confines. The current system in place until April 2017 has involved in some cases up to 50 inspectors gathering evidence for a week to compile an inspection report which is often too detailed and indecipherable to the general public.

In this new model outlined in CQC’s five year strategy inspectors will focus on key areas of hospitals rather than scrutinising the entirety of a hospitals offering.  Information will also be gathered from information that is provided to CQC by patients, the public and other interested stakeholders to guide the schedule of inspections based on potential risk.

CQC will move to inspect each trust annually with a focus on their leadership and at least one core service that the trust provides.  There is also the requirement on providers to ‘give their view on the quality of care they are providing.’

Commenting on the changes, Miriam Deakin, the Head of Policy at CQC said: –

“NHS Providers has long called for a more proportionate and risk-based approach to regulation. Making better use of the information that comes from providers as well as the public will greatly improve confidence in the quality of care.

“There is no doubt that the CQC faces an ongoing challenge as it seeks to deliver its duties with considerably fewer resources, align its activities with other national bodies and keep pace with a fast moving health and care sector.”

The understanding is once all trusts have had their comprehensive inspections, as long as they are performing highly, there will be no need for additional comprehensive inspections to take place. This risk-based approach to regulation seems to be a positive model but relies heavily on externally unchecked ‘data’. Supporters of this new approach would state that the increased use of referrals from interested stakeholders could help to fill this potential shortfall action.

The news of more targeted comprehensive inspections will be welcomed by trusts as it will mean a refocusing of precious capacity on daily work instead of all-encompassing inspection weeks; it remains to be seen whether this reduced schedule of inspections proves to be beneficial to service users.

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