MPs today censured England’s main health watchdog accusing it of getting its priorities wrong and putting patients at risk.
Following its annual review of the work of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Commons Health Committee today reported that the organisation’s priorities had become distorted in favour of the administrative task of registration and away from the more critical task of inspecting hospitals and care facilities.
Launching the report Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, Chair of the committee said: “In its review of the CQC, the committee concluded that the organisation's priorities became distorted by a statutory deadline for the registration of dentists and that this distortion led directly to a drop of 70% in inspection activity during the second half of 2010-11 compared with the same period in the previous year.
“The primary causes of this distortion, which resulted in increased risk to patients, were the unrealistic statutory obligations imposed on the CQC."
In the light of these findings, the committee said it welcomed the government's decision to postpone registration of GP practices, and recommends that proper planning, including piloting of the model for registration, should be undertaken before the revised date of April 2013 is confirmed.
The Health Committee, in its report said it did welcome recent announcements that the CQC intends to undertake annual visits of all NHS and social care providers.
Responding to the Health Committee report, the CQC issued the following statement:
“The Committee’s report highlights the major challenges CQC has faced in merging three existing regulators, setting up a new regulatory model, and registering over 39,000 provider locations – including previously unregulated sectors – against aggressive Parliamentary deadlines and with a 30% budget reduction.
“We know registration has been a difficult process for everyone involved, which is why we asked the Secretary of State to delay registration of GPs by a year to allow us to improve the way we do it – and to allow our staff to dedicate more time to inspection.”
A CQC spokesperson told OnMedica that inspection figures are now rising again. Between April and June the CQC published 2527 inspection reports on NHS and social care providers – this compares to 886 reports published in Q3 of 2010/11, when the CQC was still in the process of completing registration of all 24,000 social care locations.
“We have recruited or are in the final stages of recruiting 100 new inspectors since the Government recruitment freeze was lifted. We have also put a case to the Department of Health for extra funds to further increase the number of inspectors, so that we can carry out an unannounced inspection of every hospital and care home in England once a year from 1 April 2012. Discussions with the Department of Health are ongoing and form part of our 2012/13 budget planning,” said the spokesperson.
Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) welcomed the Health Select Committee’s report.
"The importance of having a sustainable, thorough, and effective regulatory body through which the safety and security of the adults we are responsible for can be assured,cannot be overstated" he said.