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Health services watchdog gets powers to set fees to cover all its services

CQC will be able to charge for full costs of assessments and inspections from April 1

Caroline White

Wednesday, 02 March 2016

Health services inspectorate the Care Quality Commission (CQC) should be allowed to set fees to cover the costs of all the services it provides, and not just registration costs, the Department of Health has concluded in its response to a consultation on the proposals.

The consultation, which closed on February 1, sought feedback on whether performance assessments and inspections should fall within the scope of the CQC's fee raising powers.

The government made it clear that the proposal was not about changing the CQC’s fee structure or the level of fees that it proposes to charge. Neither was it about extending the remit of CQC’s activity or the scope of reviews of performance assessments to additional providers or services.

The responses showed little support for the move. Most respondents were not in favour of the CQC increasing its fees in general, voicing concerns about value for money, and about the potential to increase the scope of inspections.

But the Department insisted that “like all public bodies with fee-setting powers, the CQC is required by government policy to set fees that, over time, cover the costs of the services it provides.”

But it said that this didn’t give the CQC licence to charge what it liked. It had to be able to justify the fees.

“Recovery of costs by a public body must be based on the true economic costs of the service,” it said, adding that it should seek to control its costs and ensure the best value for public money.

“The Department's view is that there are sufficient safeguards in the current accountability arrangements with the CQC to hold it to account for the efficient and effective use of its resources, which in turn will mean that the CQC only raises fees necessary to cover the cost of its regulatory functions,” it said.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the government will now press ahead with a regulation that will give the CQC power to charge fees for performance assessments and reviews carried out under Section 46 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

The regulation will be laid before parliament at the earliest possible opportunity, with a view to enforcement from 1 April 2016.

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