Suspend inspections until after winter, says NHS Confederation

August 26, 2020

The NHS Confederation is calling on regulators in health and social care to suspend inspections until after winter.

This would allow providers to address issues like exhaustion among staff, while managing the ongoing threat from coronavirus and for health services to focus on the backlog of treatment that has built up.

The NHS Confederation has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who recently outlined his vision for 'busting bureaucracy', explaining it wants to see this backed up with a major shift towards a lighter-touch and more agile system of regulation over the longer term.

In the latest report from its NHS Reset campaign, Lean, Light and Agile: Governance and Regulation in the Aftermath of COVID-19, the NHS Confederation calls for a continuation of the lighter-touch approach that has been seen during COVID-19. In the NHS, leaders say this has enabled them to focus on delivering care to patients and to work more efficiently, with less interference from national bodies and reduced requirements for meetings and paperwork that add little to patient care. They want to see the lessons from the pandemic embedded and do not want to return to the pre-COVID approach to governance and regulation.

They believe the Government will need to take this opportunity to review the regulatory burden placed on providers from the Care Quality Commission, NHS England, NHS Improvement other national bodies.

Danny Mortimer, Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said, 'Successive governments have promised to cut red tape while actually presiding over and instigating an expansion in the bureaucratic burden on providers. In the immediate term, we need to put this in reverse and suspend routine inspections until after winter, when the lessons from the pandemic can be put into practice.

'Ultimately, we need a more risk-based, proportionate and intelligence-driven approach to regulation that fosters innovation and does not weigh providers down with reporting requirements that take them away from delivering high quality care to patients.'

The NHS Confederation makes a number of recommendations for national bodies, including:

  • Make regulation proportionate and risk-based.
  • Align and integrate regulation and performance management.
  • Reset the regulatory architecture towards system working and integration. The CQC needs support to amend the inspection regime to focus on systems and patient pathways.
  • Maximise the integration of digital technology through increased funding, increasingly using digital inspection and reporting methods.

The report also sets out how local NHS organisations are ready and willing to take on some of the responsibility for reducing bureaucracy themselves. To embed the transformation brought about by the pandemic, they are keen to encourage leaner and lighter governance structures, with fewer committees and shorter and simpler board reporting.  Read the full report from NHS Reset.


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