Press Releases – The Right To Speak Up

It is common knowledge within the health and social care sector that an inspection by the CQC is accompanied by an inspection report. This inspection report, whether challenged by way of factual accuracy comments, or not, is eventually published on the CQC’s website for the purpose of public viewing.  For information on how to challenge an inspection report, please see the article published on our website (here).

Increasingly, this routine publication is being accompanied by a press release. The CQC’s website, updated on 12 May 2022, states:

We routinely send summary information about our findings to local, national and trade media. We will normally send more in-depth details to the media when we:

  • Publish inspection reports with overall outstanding or inadequate ratings;
  • Take enforcement action;
  • Prosecute.”

This is not a published policy but simply a handful of lines buried within the CQC’s website.

While we encourage the CQC’s celebration of services who have achieved inspection reports with an overall rating of ‘outstanding’, a review of the press releases published for September 2022 indicate an overwhelming tendency to focus on services who have been rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement.’ While this is disappointing, it is not surprising given recent research undertaken by the Care Home Professional which identified an increase in negative ratings by the CQC (see a recently published article here).

At Ridouts we have grown to expect an inspection report, with an overall rating of ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’, to be accompanied by a press release. This is despite there being no published CQC policy which gives notice, or guidance, to service providers as to the possibility of CQC issuing a press release alongside an inspection report. The unfortunate reality of this practice is that the contents of the press release is grounded on an inspection report which is (usually) contested and not agreed by the service provider. Accordingly, this act of ‘double publication’ by the CQC furthers its ability to damage a service provider’s reputation by distributing its opinion to a wider readership.

In our experience, a press release prepared by the CQC often fails to adhere to the publication requirements of being fair and balanced. This results in an intense focus on all ‘negative’ aspects of the inspection report.

These failures by the CQC risk prejudicing service provider’s, alongside demoralising staff, unnecessarily concerning service users and their families and endangering relationships with local authorities and commissioners.  The conclusion is a potential for reputational damage. Given these risks, and the fundamental errors within both the inspection report and the press release, it is worth seeking advice on next steps; this may include preparing your own response to the allegations contained within the CQC’s press release.

In our experience, a responsive press release allows for the service provider’s position to be equally present within the public sphere and give readers another perspective to consider. This negates the impact of the CQC’s press release.

As a service provider it is important to remember that you have a right to utilise your voice where you feel that you are being misrepresented by another entity. If you find yourself in a similar situation, please do not hesitate to get in contact with the Ridouts Team, we will be more than happy to assist.

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