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CQC admits setback for new inspection regime for care homes

Project to give ratings to services for elderly people delayed by another seven months

By Katy Scott | 19 May 2016

CQC admits setback for new inspection regime for care homesEngland’s health watchdog has given up on meeting its target of inspecting all care homes for elderly people under a new rating regime by September.

Exaro has established that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has again fallen far behind in its programme, started in October 2014, to inspect social-care services for adults under a new rating system introduced in response to Robert Francis’s inquiry into the scandal of poor care at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS foundation trust.

CQC figures show that it failed to carry out 2,185 inspections from its target of 17,478 by March under the new rating system. The CQC admits that it will fail to complete 25,098 inspections under the new regime as planned by September – itself an extension on the original deadline of February.

A CQC spokeswoman told Exaro: “Based on programme work completed so far and projected figures for the future, the board agreed to extend the completion of this work from the end of September 2016 to the end of April 2017, which we are on track to complete.”

The further setback comes as the CQC is also under fire for proposals to cut inspection teams and the frequency of inspections in adult social care. Following a consultation exercise, the CQC is due to publish its strategy document on Tuesday to set out its plans for the next five years.

The CQC, which regulates health services and social care for adults in England, introduced the new inspection regime to rate providers as “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” or “inadequate”. It is then supposed to reinspect care homes that are rated “inadequate” in any one of five key areas within six months.

More than 400 providers of adult social care have been rated “inadequate” so far.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “Since the introduction of our new regulatory approach in October 2014, we have been making good progress with inspecting all 25,000-plus adult social care services across England.”

“We are continually reviewing our performance on a monthly basis in public so that we can identify and address the shortfall and ensure that we are making the best use of resources available to drive forward our inspection work as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

However, Eileen Chubb, a former care worker who founded Compassion in Care, which campaigns against elderly abuse, said: “If the CQC were inspecting in an intelligent way, they would be giving priority to the care homes with long histories of poor care, and they would not need to keep inspection targets if it did something about the bad care homes in the first place.”

“They keep bringing out these new regimes and putting all these targets in, and all this effort goes into another new regime.”

In a consultation document in January about its strategy for the next five years, the CQC said that its proposals “are likely to reduce the frequency with which we inspect services and the size of inspection teams overall.”

It continued: “This will help us to target our resources where risk is greatest and improvement is needed.

“We want to be very clear that these proposals would not compromise the core aspects of our role that matter most to people.”

However, the Relatives and Residents Association (R&RA), which campaigns on behalf of elderly people in care homes, believes that a cut in the frequency of inspections would be “disastrous”.

In its response to the CQC’s consultation exercise, the R&RA said: “In the case of care homes, we do not believe that there is a substitute for visiting a service, talking to residents, relatives and staff, challenging observed practice, following up complaints that have not been resolved, and verifying providers’ statements about their services including those concerning recruitment and training of staff.”

It adds: “We fundamentally cannot agree that fewer inspections of care homes will not affect the quality of service provision.”

Chubb said: “I do not think that the CQC is capable actually of changing anything at all. I think that the only answer has to be to empower staff because they are the only people who really see what is going on.”

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