I spoke to Andrea Sutcliffe not too long ago and we discussed how important it is for both CQC and organisations to share a stronger more collaborative relationship, for the betterment of our members and the people they support.

Following our chat, Andrea kindly put me in touch with Rob Tovey, who is the Head of Inspection for CQC North West, and has been earmarked as ARC England’s strategic partner. After Rob and I had a good chat, it was clear that Rob was really eager to meet some of our members and confront issues, discuss challenges and ultimately answer some burning questions.

This led us in to the first of four network meetings being held a few of weeks ago in Harrogate. As I spoke individually with some of the 25 members at the conclusion of the meeting, it was clear that the feeling was that the session was very productive and beneficial to all. Feedback from all parties was positive, including from Hempsons Solicitors, who kindly provided a venue and cracking lunch. (Very pleased my bread-free January had come to an end!) People were commenting that this level of engagement has seldom been seen in the past and that clearly CQC are striving to become a more ‘customer facing’ organisation, whilst of course retaining its strength as the regulator.

The agenda items included – what does ‘Outstanding’ look like, the importance of the PIR, the importance of ‘service users’ voices, looking at inspection of new models of care, plus time for many questions fired at Rob. Three hours well spent.

In terms of the elusive ‘outstanding rating’ (somewhat the unicorn of the rating system), Rob suggested that providers reflect on what they do and frankly ask themselves the question – would you not expect this in a good service anyway? Involving people that are being supported is good, but not uncommon anymore, it is a good practice and makes sense on so many levels. During the conversation it became clear that very bespoke activities, innovation and creativity is what the regulator is looking for. Rob went on to say that providers should ask themselves again – what is the difference that has been made to people’s lives? And in what context; do the approaches you take have greater impact than the provider down the road, in the county or across the country? Hard to know for sure, but certainly food for thought.

I’ve said it many times before, we always hear the bad stuff hitting the headlines, so let’s make sure we champion the good. And in Rob’s words, “Always remind the inspectors to look for good!”.

There will future sessions and an opportunity to meet Rob – “an audience with” as it were… We have the Midlands meeting next followed by the South West and South East, during April time.

Finally, this week saw the launch of the latest and final report from Sir Stephen Bubb ‘Time for Change – The Challenge Ahead’, the third report since 2014, outlining key proposals to change the way people with learning disabilities are being treated following the shocking expose at Winterbourne View. I don’t think any of us are surprised to hear that deadlines have not been met and that there is critical importance in ensuring there is a trained workforce and suitable housing provision in place as people move out of ATU’s – although that in itself sparks a thousand other questions, one of them being ‘where’s the money?’. Sir Stephen made it clear though, the ‘shift’ is starting to happen. He said in the report “In the last year real progress has been made; I believe that there has been a step change in approach with the acceptance that institutions must close.”

And from the activities ARC England has been involved in, that is certainly true, although significantly more needs to be done to get this right. But let’s be positive, we know that progress has been painfully slow to date but maybe at long last the Department of Health and NHS England are listening and more importantly will be ‘doing’. Time will tell. See our top story for more information on the Bubb report, including CQC’s response.

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director