Inside CQC
Andrea Sutcliffe CBE

In the first of our new Care Quality Commission columns, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care Andrea Sutcliffe CBE shares important changes that are being implemented.

I am delighted to write for readers of Care Management Matters and want to take the opportunity to bring you up-to-date with what’s happening at CQC to improve what we do for the public, providers and our staff.

As I am sure you know, we launched the next phase of our inspection approach last November. This wasn’t the fundamental change that happened in 2014, it was more evolution than revolution. Listening to feedback and working through co-production, we simplified our assessment frameworks and made sure that what we are doing in adult social care works well alongside the regulation of health services. You can find out a lot more on the ‘Guidance for Providers’ pages of our website.

Over the last four years, we have really concentrated on improving our inspections, introducing ratings and implementing the new enforcement powers we were given in 2015. We are now turning our attention to another crucial area of our work – the registration of providers and managers (which includes new registrations, variations and cancellations).

We know that some of our registration processes can be cumbersome and frustrating for providers – our team managing the process feel like that too sometimes. We also know that the way we register means that the public cannot always find the information they want – who really runs the service, what is the previous regulated history of a service that has changed hands?

We are setting about making some important changes which we signalled in our 2016-2021 Strategy.

These include:

  • Developing an online digital registration service to improve providers’ and managers’ experience of applying for registration and ensure registration inspectors are getting the right information to do their jobs.
  • Making sure that how we register providers allows us to hold the right people to account – while continuing to inspect and rate individual services.

What will these changes mean in practice? You’ve told us that it can be hard to know if you’re submitting the right information in an application, so the new service will make it clear what information you need to provide and ask questions in a logical order. We’ll also make it possible to save the application and come back to it – so you won’t need to start again if you don’t have the information you need to hand and won’t need to complete the application all at once. The digital service will also make clear what’s expected from a service applying to be registered, to help people understand this before they submit their application.

Our work to ensure we’re registering at the level where responsibility for care quality lies won’t change our inspections of individual services – we know that our ratings help people making decisions about care for themselves or their loved ones. What it will do is make sure it’s clear who is responsible for the quality of care in the service, both for the public and for CQC, if we need to take action when a service isn’t providing good care. It will also make it easier to find out what the history of a service is. This can be very hard to do right now, which means people can’t always find the information they need, and services can ‘lose’ Good ratings when there’s a simple registration change.

Getting these changes right is important for us all, so we’ll be involving providers at every step. We asked for volunteers to be involved in user research for the digital registration service and have been overwhelmed by expressions of interest. These volunteers will test the service and help us understand what it’s like to use from the perspective of different providers and when completing different types of application, so we can make sure it does the job we need it to do. Working together in this way will help us make sure this service makes a real improvement to registration, so I’d like to say a big thank you to those who volunteered.

These are long-term changes that we will be working on up to 2021. As this work develops and rolls out, we will keep you updated via our monthly newsletters. If you aren’t already signed up you can do this by going to the ‘News’ page of our website.

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be back writing to you in the June issue, so please get in touch with any suggestions for topics you would like me to talk about in future.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE is Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at Care Quality Commission.

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