As would be expected, clients rarely come to those in my profession with their good news stories! What really shines out in the article is how staff are so enthusiastic about the service. This will no doubt have translated into a frontline commitment to make the service the best that it can be.
While all providers will undoubtedly begin their services with this same goal, the daily grind can weaken resolve and standards may imperceptibly slip. It is therefore vital that providers give their service regular health checks, to ensure that every aspect of the service is reaching the expected high standards.
This need to check each and every part of a service arguably has a specific importance for substance misuse services. As in the Insight Platform article, CQC does not currently rate providers in the substance misuse sector.
Where they do rate, CQC reports confirm whether a service is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ as an overall rating, and as individual ratings under the headings of safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. In services they do not rate, CQC will summarise their assessment of a substance misuse service with the stark conclusion that the service in question is or is not safe/ effective/ caring/ responsive/ well-led.
This presents a challenge for services because it deprives them of the nuanced approach of the four ratings. Being told that your service is ‘not safe’ is a blunt and concerning outcome for any provider. Providers have expressed concern that a conclusion of ‘not safe’ leads potential service users to simply stop reading and choose another service; whereas a service with ‘requires improvement’ may encourage a potential service user to read on, find out what exactly requires improvement and weigh up the information themselves.
Those in the substance misuse sector, therefore, cannot afford to lose points on inspections in any category. We have previously discussed the importance of providers challenging draft reports where they believe any of the contents to be factually inaccurate. To do otherwise is to let damaging and incorrect information into the public domain, with all the reputational and commercial implications that entails.
It is of course far preferable to be proactive and ensure that the service that CQC visits is the best that it can be. A health check is the best way to test this. Using an external consultant or via internal audits, we recommend regular mock inspections. To ensure that your health check aligns with the reality of inspection, use the CQC Provider handbook for specialist substance misuse services, July 2015; the appendices of which provide the key lines of enquiry, the characteristics and the principles upon which the assessments are grounded.
With this one simple step, providers will know that they have done everything within their power to obtain an excellent CQC report – leading to more providers having the same positive CQC experience as Insight Platform.