The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook a record high of 21,126 care home inspections in the past year as it ramped up its enforcement activity ahead of a raft of new powers given to it in the Care Act, says research by Thomson Reuters legal business.
Thomson Reuters says that care home inspections have more than quadrupled over the last three years, from just 5,178 in 2010/11. This follows intense political and public pressure in the wake of high-profile care home scandals such as that involving the Winterbourne View care home in 2011.
Tim Spencer-Lane, a lawyer and author of the Care Act Manual, to be published on 31 August 2014 by Thomson Reuters, says that dealing with the CQC’s new powers granted by the Act will be a substantial challenge to care homes and their legal advisers.
“The CQC is now a completely different animal – one with a lot more teeth,” says Spencer-Lane. “Care homes need to be prepared to deal with an organisation that now has the power to prosecute them without notice. That means that providers have to be sure that they are meeting their legal responsibilities or face action under the new Act, – this is particularly important with an average of almost 60 unannounced inspections a day taking place over the past year.”
“It will be very keen to ensure that it does not miss, or fail to act, on any problems that it identifies through its inspection regime,” adds Spencer-Lane. “With the weapons now at its disposal, the CQC no longer has any excuses for poor performance in addressing abuse.”
However, Spencer-Lane notes that concerns have been raised in Parliament over the CQC’s ability to take on the new role of monitoring the finances of large care home groups.
“The CQC is staffed by professionals with expertise in the health and social care sector, not accountants,” says Spencer-Lane. “In order to handle its new role, the CQC will have to recruit a team of professionals with skills and experience in this type of work, or outsource the work to specialists.
“That means the future level of Government funding for the organisation is vital – without the money to build its financial monitoring capabilities, there is a risk that these reforms might not work.”