Happy New Year to all colleagues working in social care. I hope you managed to have some time off over the Christmas period to spend with your loved ones.
Over the past couple of months, our sector has faced increasing pressures due to the Omicron variant, which is putting further pressure on the social care workforce, which we reported to be depleted and exhausted in our ‘State of Care’ report published in October.
We are really keen that we fully understand the impact that workforce pressures are placing on your ability to deliver the high-quality care you aspire to. To support this, we’ve started to collect workforce data through targeted questions and prompts, which will be used in all inspections and monitoring conversations. We will be asking you what impact, if any, workforce is having on your ability to deliver care. The information will be used to help our understanding of what’s happening at a provider level, but also to inform national conversations.
As we are all aware, pressure is being felt across every aspect of the health and care system. In light of the commitment before Christmas to significantly accelerate the booster vaccination programme, last month we shared a statement advising that we’d postpone onsite inspections of acute hospitals ambulance services and general practice for three weeks. These plans are being kept under review and we will continue to communicate updates to our approach as necessary.
We also advised about our plans to prioritise activity to help create more capacity in adult social care. This includes:
- An ambition to complete 1,000 infection prevention and control (IPC) inspections in adult social care over the winter period, and respond rapidly to requests to set up new Designated Settings.
- And from January, begin a programme of activity to rate adult social care services that are registered and not yet rated and to inspect providers currently rated as Requires Improvement, to identify where improvement has taken place and re-rate where possible. Supporting the creation of additional capacity in the system.
We inspect services for a number of reasons, one being regulatory history, for example, previous enforcement action or ratings. Another being recorded risk triggers such as information from people who access services, their families and people who work in the sector. Currently, 55% of our risk-based inspections are based on recorded risk triggers. People’s feedback, be that good, bad or mixed, helps inform our understanding of what’s happening in the sector and where we should focus our regulatory work. We will continue to prioritise risk.
Feedback really matters to our work. This new year we will be relaunching our Because we all care campaign, asking for feedback on people’s experiences of care. In previous years this campaign has given us valuable insights into good practice and areas we need to focus monitoring or inspection activity on. We will always advise people to address complaints with registered managers first to enable a resolution to be reached and embed lessons learned in a service. However, it is essential to our role to enable people to speak to us directly about their care, or care given to their loved ones or relatives.
At the beginning of December the Government published the long awaited ‘People at the heart of Care: adult social care reform’ white paper, outlining a vision for social care, a commitment to better support the social care workforce, and new powers that we at CQC will have with assuring local authorities and systems.
For many years we at CQC have called for a long-term vision for social care, with funding to deliver the ambition. This paper provides us with that vision and a breakdown of how the additional money announced by Government back on 7th September will be spent. This White Paper must mark the start of a sustained investment in a skilled, valued social care workforce.
Kate Terroni is Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission. Twitter: @CQCProf