The Care Quality Commission (CQC) launched an ambitious new strategy this week based on consultation with the public, providers of health and social care services, charities and partner organisations.
The new strategy focuses on the following four themes:
- People and communities: regulation that is driven by people’s needs and experiences, focusing on what is important to them as they access, use and move between services.
- Smarter regulation: a more dynamic and flexible approach that provides up-to-date and high-quality information and ratings, easier ways of working with CQC, and a more proportionate regulatory response.
- Safety through learning: an unremitting focus on safety, requiring a culture across health and care that enables people to speak up and in this way share learning and improvement opportunities.
- Accelerating improvement: encouraging health and care services, and local systems, to access support to help improve the quality of care where it’s needed most.
Running through each of these themes are two core ambitions:
- Assessing local systems: giving the public independent assurance about the quality of care in their area.
- Tackling inequalities in health and care: pushing for equality of access, experiences and outcomes from services.
CQC said that they will work to make a positive impact on the experiences of everyone who receives care, while regulating in a targeted way, which supports services to improve and prioritise safety.
One fundamental change is that CQC will assess how well local health and care systems are working and addressing local challenges. This is likely to be underpinned by legislation in the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill. The strategy also recognises that effective regulation to improve the quality of care depends on people’s feedback and experiences.
The regulator also said they will develop more ways to gather views from a wider range of people, including those working in health and social care, and improve how this is recorded, analysed and used consistently.
CQC will aim to make it easier for people, their families and advocates to give feedback about their care and will provide a response on how this is used to inform regulation.
The strategy also sets out how innovative analysis, artificial intelligence and data science techniques will be used by CQC to support proportionate decisions based on the best information available – ensuring that it will be ready to act quickly and tailor regulation to individual circumstances.
Another major change is the way in which CQC will provide information on quality, including ratings, so that these are more relevant, up to date, and meaningful. This will support people to make informed decisions and be confident that the information provided fully reflects the quality of care available to them and their loved ones.
While on-site inspections will remain a vital part of the regulation, CQC will move away from a set schedule of inspections to a more flexible, targeted approach using a range of regulatory methods, tools, and techniques to assess the quality and ensure an up-to-date picture.
Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive at the Care Quality Commission, said, ‘Our purpose has never been clearer. In our assessments, we will ensure that services actively take into account people’s rights and their unique perspectives on what matters to them. We will use our powers proportionately and act quickly where improvement is needed, whilst also ensuring we shine a positive light on the majority of providers who are setting high standards and delivering great care.’
Tim Coolican, Partner for Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP, said, 'While the CQC is right to focus on safety and devote resources to areas of greatest risk, they must keep in mind the fundamental role of a regulator to act fairly. Fairness will be essential if they are to regain the trust of providers, who may question what if any support the CQC has provided during the pandemic. Fairness is also essential if those using care services are to be given the information they need to make informed choices. The CQC will only be able to rebuild confidence in their role as a regulator if they can demonstrate in practice that their new approach to inspection and rating is as clear, open and transparent as the services they seek to promote.
Tim Coolican added, 'Providers will need to carefully consider how to proactively prepare for the new regulatory regime. As I outlined in an earlier article considering the implications of the CQC's consultation, it is critical that care providers carry out in-depth assessments of their own services to identify areas for improvement.'
Karolina Gerlich, CEO at The Care Workers’ Charity, said, 'As the Charity for care workers, we are concerned that the new CQC strategy doesn’t talk more about the workforce, and particularly, the needs and wellbeing of social care workers throughout the UK. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, care workers were burnt out and underappreciated, and now more than ever, their wellbeing must be prioritised. As the CQC continues to promote excellence in the social care sector, it must be recognised that quality care provision will not be achieved without care workers themselves being supported.
Naomi Phillips, British Red Cross director of policy and advocacy said, 'We are pleased to see a focus on health inequalities and system reviews in the CQC’s new strategy. COVID-19 has highlighted more than ever that where you are born, grow, live and work affects your health. Inspecting access, quality, and outcomes of health and care services will help to get a better understanding of these inequalities across the country and hopefully address this postcode lottery.
'We look forward to seeing more detail from the CQC on the planned systems reviews. We know from our work supporting people to leave the hospital that every point of hand-off between teams is a potential point of success or failure for patient recovery, which is why the CQC should also be given the powers it needs to examine transitions between health and care providers.'
Visit the CQC website to read the strategy in full.
In the latest issue of CMM, Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), updates on the four key themes to feature in the new CQC strategy and explains the importance of person-centred care.