Jon Masters 22 July 2015

Staff shortages at CQC delaying inspections warns watchdog

Fresh findings by the National Audit Office show the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is still deferring target dates for inspecting health providers due to staff shortages.

The CQC has made progress since criticisms in 2011 and 2012 pointed to a lack of adequate staff, the NAO states in a new report published today. The commission hit its target of taking on another 300 inspectors before the end of April this year, but the independent regulator of health and adult social care services in England is still short of vital staff in other parts of its business, particularly among analysts, the NAO has found.

The CQC was heavily criticised by a range of bodies including the NAO, the Public Accounts Committee, the Department of Health and the Francis Report following a string of failures in the health and care services system.

The grounds on which it was criticised included weaknesses in strategic direction and leadership, insufficient skills and capacity, and failure to intervene quickly or strongly enough when health providers were found to be failing.

The Commission responded by making substantial changes to its structure and leadership, developing a new regulatory model aimed at strengthening the way it monitors and inspects hospitals, adult care providers and GPs.

The Commission has embarked on a recruitment drive for its new role, which since April this year has also included oversight of the financial viability of the 43 largest adult social care providers. The NAO has warned that there are not yet enough people to carry out all of the Commission’s work.

The CQC has begun its role of monitoring care providers’ financial sustainability without having in-house expertise in place, today’s report reveals. This follows the announcement in June 2015 that the Commission would assess the financial efficiency of hospital trusts.

Head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said today: 'The Commission has made substantial progress in the face of sustained criticism and is developing a more intelligence-driven approach to regulation.

'Further challenges lie ahead for the Commission to demonstrate effectiveness and value for money. It now needs to build an organisational culture that gives its people the confidence, as well as the skills, to apply the regulatory model assertively, fairly and consistently.'

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