The leaders of England’s care watchdog say they have not considered resigning, despite facing heavy criticism from MPs over their organisation’s performance.
Members of the Commons health committee published a damning report this week, criticising the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for its “distortion of priorities”.
They said inspections of health and adult social care services by CQC fell by an “unacceptable” 70 per cent during the second half of 2010-11, while the commission concentrated on the “administrative” task of registering dentists for the first time, which the committee said was a “distortion of priorities” and led to “increased risk” for service-users.
The committee said CQC’s senior leadership failed in its duty to pass the message about the problems its registration duties were causing to the government “persuasively and persistently”. The committee also criticised the number of long-standing job vacancies at CQC.
The committee said it wanted to “see clear evidence by next year of the CQC leadership openly acknowledging challenges and setting priorities that reflect its core duty to ensure the safety and quality of care”.
In July, CQC defended the failure of its inspectors to uncover evidence of serious abuse at Winterbourne View, a private “hospital” for people with learning difficulties.
The previous month, CQC had been heavily criticised for its failure to take action over concerns raised by a whistleblower at Winterbourne View.
The commission had already faced heavy criticism over its plans to reduce inspections of care facilities through its new “risk-based” system of regulation, which focuses on poorer homes while leaving others to submit their own written self-assessments.
Leading care figures, including Dame Philippa Russell, told Disability News Service (DNS) earlier this year of their concerns at the shift towards less intensive and less frequent inspections.
Dame Philippa said she had been told that some care homes might only be inspected every five years.
Concerns about its new system of regulation were also raised in September 2010 by Fiona Mactaggart MP, now a shadow equalities minister but then a member of the Commons health committee when it was taking evidence from Dame Jo Williams, CQC’s chair.
Earlier this year, CQC told DNS there would be a “planned review” of every care home “at least every two years”, and that this “may involve an inspection”.
But the health committee’s new report says it is “difficult to see how the CQC can have confidence in a provider meeting standards if it has not visited the organisation for more than two years, no matter how good its record”.
And it says it welcomes “recent announcements” that CQC now intends to visit every provider at least once every year.
It also criticises CQC’s action over the Winterbourne View allegations as “woefully inadequate”.
A CQC spokesman said: “CQC’s chair and chief executive [Dame Jo and Cynthia Bower] have not considered resigning in the light of the health select committee report.
“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 per cent budget reduction.”
He said inspection figures were now “rising rapidly” and CQC had “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”.
He said Dame Jo would be “responding formally and in detail to the committee”.
15 September 2011