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CQC defends policy of fewer on-site inspections

CQC has defended its new policy of fewer on-site inspections, despite concerns raised about the importance of seeing care delivered at first hand.

In a document summarising responses to its January 2021 consultation on changes for more flexible and responsive regulation, the CQC sets out some methodology for using wider regulatory approaches.

The consultation ran from 26 January to 23 March and included podcasts and webinars for social care providers. Some 407 responses (72 per cent of total) from service providers / commissioning bodies commented on proposals including to allow CQC to assess and rate services more flexibly, to update ratings more often in a more responsive and proportionate way.

CQC says that responses indicated broad overall support across all proposals, in particular to create more collaborative working between providers and the regulator. Specifically, respondents indicated:

  • Strong support for using a wider range of regulatory approaches to assess quality, and not just rely on full on-site inspections. Many respondents believed this will lead to a more efficient and proportionate regulatory approach.
  • Strong support for reviewing and updating ratings (or judgements of quality) more flexibly, rather than following a fixed schedule of inspections. Respondents believed this will allow CQC to be more responsive to changes in the quality of services, resulting in more accurate and reliable ratings.  

Areas of concern were noted in the following:

  • The more flexible approach leading to fewer on-site inspections, which some respondents believed could undermine the importance of seeing care being delivered and how it informs judgements about the quality of care.
  • The reliability and availability of data and information used to change a rating and collection methods.

In terms of next steps, the CQC has outlined the scenarios in which quality will be assessed and services rated using regulatory approaches other than just on-site or comprehensive inspections:  

  • Where evidence is gathered without a site visit and used to take enforcement action  
  • Where providers supply full evidence of improvements made following an inspection.   

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