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A compass being held in a hand | Care Home Providers Guidance

Navigating the new CQC single assessment framework

By freelance writer Eleanore Robinson

The CQC’s new single assessment framework represents a sea change for social care inspection and ratings.

Under the scheme, which is being piloted from this month (August) and is expected to apply to all social care providers from next January, CQC inspections will not be the only source the regulator draws on when deciding ratings.

Instead, CQC will also consider feedback from service users and their families, from social care workers and from other health relevant sources.

Inspections will continue but will be much shorter and more frequent that the current version.

The ratings from Inadequate to Outstanding will remain the same but will now be based around 34 quality standards, which will apply to all services regulated by the CQC.

The care watchdog said it had made the changes to make things simpler and to better reflect how care is delivered by different types of services across a local area. In the new model one framework would connect all its registration activity to its assessments of quality.

Samantha Burges, senior associate solicitor at Ridouts, said: “There will be more transparency in terms of what CQC is looking at and what they are basing their judgements and ratings on.”

Data will be collected through a portal, currently being piloted, which will be accessible to providers.

Changing ratings
Partner at Browne Jacobson Carl May-Smith added his belief that ratings will change more regularly.  

He said: “[That] they collect different information from different sources at different times means that they might get information about one quality statement and that might change the score up or down, and recalculate your whole score. Your rating might change from that one key question.”

May-Smith said that providers could prepare for the change in the system by gathering as much data and feedback as possible from their homes and carrying out surveys with residents and their families.

He said:  “We are advising providers to start more proactively collecting feedback, get surveys out with service users and their families, collecting and collating feedback you get from others in the system.”  

May-Smith warned that with a small sample size one negative feedback can significantly affect the ratings.

However, other feedback collected in a meaningful way can put negative statements into perspective.

He said:  “That can make a difference now as well as making a difference going forward.”  

Burges agreed saying: “It is an opportunity for providers particularly if they are pro-active. In my view it sounds like engagement is key to making the most of this and ensuring your rating is truly reflective of your service, particularly if you think you are better than you currently are rated.”

However, Burges said that this might be harder for smaller providers who don’t have the teams to focus on the task.  “I think there could end up being a disparity between providers who are more savvy, and those who aren’t.”

Other effects
It won’t just be social care workers who will need to adapt to the new assessment framework.

Banks and insurers often base their proposals on a care home’s rating and more regular changes can have an impact on their operations.

It is also unclear how providers will be able to challenge ratings under the new system.

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