2 December 2011

Government hiring regulations and statutory registration timetables have contributed significantly to the failings of the Care Quality Commission, a report has found.

The National Audit Office has found that the Department of Health has more control over the independent regulator and the restrictions and obligations imposed on them have forced inspections to take a back seat.

Other factors such as a reduced budget, additional responsibilities and changes to their role have also contributed but the apparent lack of independence has raised concerns.

The issue was discussed in September by Tory MP Stephen Dorrell who told BBC Radio 4 that the CQC should maintain independence from the government.

He said: “If obligation to the government is inconsistent with the delivery of central obligation to maintain inspection programmes, then the CQC should say so and should maintain central function.”Image: CQC

These concerns about the competence of the CQC were reflected by other MPs and Prime Minister, David Cameron, encouraged the regulator to take them on board and make improvements.

General confusion over who assigns targets and delegates tasks seems to have arisen and the report has also highlighted inconsistencies over the responsibility for funding regulations. It is uncertain as to whether providers of services or the Department should fund the regulations.

As well as pinpointing areas of concern the report made recommendations to improve services. These include; defining the outcomes the CQC wants to achieve, giving compliance inspectors better support and information to help them make consistent judgements plus ensuring whistleblowing is a key source of information.

The CQC has been under scrutiny these past six months sparked by the BBC Panorama investigation exposing abuse at the Winterbourne View care home. This contributed towards the winding up of Southern Cross in July 2011 which had 750 care homes with 31,000 residents.

There have also been revelations during the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry, most recent of which, has been accusations by a CQC board member of management incompetence.

The commission’s national report on dignity and nutrition in NHS hospitals and its investigation report on Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust also attracted media attention.

The National Audit Office – Department of Health: The Care Quality Commission: Regulating the quality and safety of health and adult social care report can be found on the NAO website