On 1 November 2017 CQC implemented its new inspection guidance following on from the latest consultation on its next phase of regulation. The release of the new guidance supersedes the previous Provider Handbooks and instead CQC has implemented more concentrated guidance aimed at each sector it regulates. The guidance sets out how CQC will regulate and inspect providers moving forward.
The general content of the new guidance for adult social care services is similar to that in the provider handbooks, although there is a noticeable reduction in the amount of detail provided in the guidance. However, there are some notable points that providers should be aware of.
Firstly, the frequency of inspections has changed for services rated as ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’. From now on, CQC’s general rule is that those service rated as ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ will be inspected normally within 30 months of the last comprehensive inspection report being published. As was previously the case, services rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ will normally be inspected within 12 months and those rated as ‘Inadequate’ will normally be inspected within 6 months of publication of the latest comprehensive report. However, in line with its special measures approach, those services rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ overall but with any ‘Inadequate’ ratings at the key question level will normally be inspected within 6 months. As before, CQC will use any external information received relating to risk to determine whether the inspection schedule needs to be brought forward for any individual service.
Secondly, CQC will be slowly phasing out the current Provider Information Returns (“PIR”) and instead introducing the Provider Information Collection (“PIC”). While CQC currently usually requests providers to complete a PIR a few months prior to a comprehensive inspection, providers will be required to complete PIC’s on their own volition. Providers will be asked to set up an online account and have three months to complete the initial PIC. It is expected that providers will then update the PIC at least annually. If providers fail to do this, a ratings limiter will apply to the Well-led question and the relevant service will not be able to achieve better than ‘Requires Improvement’ in the Well-led key question. Whilst providers are only obliged complete the PIC annually, CQC appears to suggest that providers could use the PIC as part of their general quality monitoring responsibilities and update this document on a more regular basis. The new guidance currently states that PIC’s will first be rolled out to smaller providers and it is expected that they will be fully implemented by 2018/19.
Alongside the new guidance CQC has also introduced a revised assessment framework. Providers should ensure that their current assessment frameworks and training materials now reflect the new updated KLOEs and prompts. In addition to the KLOEs, the ratings characteristics have also been amended to better reflect how they link to the KLOEs. This should hopefully help providers better assess the performance of their service against both the KLOEs and ratings characteristics.
Providers must ensure they are familiar with the new guidance and assessment framework to help understand what CQC is looking for during the inspection process, improve their general care provision and achieve a positive rating upon inspection.