As part of the Covid-19 response, routine CQC inspections were suspended on the 16th March 2020. We saw an immediate move to a phone-based model under the Emergency Support Framework (ESF) along with close monitoring of services using a range of intelligence sources.
In response to concerns, the CQC have resumed essential inspections at health and care settings where they rate using their 5 key questions. Come Autumn, they are also planning to continue routine inspections on lower risk services. This will no doubt be welcomed by relatives of care home residents, as some have worried that safety failures in locked-down homes may be causing unnecessary deaths from Covid-19.
While some of the urgent inspections were restarting in June, we spoke to Ann Highton, governance, assurance and risk specialist. Ann outlined her view of the ‘new’ normal, explaining the organisational structure changes and the service delivery systems that regulators need to acknowledge. She also stressed the importance of reflecting on the lessons learnt during this period. Ann was complimentary of the CQC’s supportive response during the pandemic, predicting that there would be an understanding of what had been overcome so the regulators’ expectations should adapt accordingly.
However, there is also concern about recommencing inspections from organisations like BMJ. There are worries around how appropriate non-essential inspections are, especially due to the anticipated surge in demand caused by non-Covid patients.
NHS Confederation has also encouraged the CQC to not “rush back to the way things were”, taking time to reflect on lessons learnt and take a collaborative approach to planning the future of regulation and inspection.
What will the new CQC regime look like?
The ESF has helped the CQC determine how services have responded to the pandemic and helped adapt its support to the different sectors it regulates. The CQC intelligence team is also working to deliver a thematic review; understanding key themes and trends of the Covid-19 response. This is particularly in adult social care where there is a high volume of providers and significantly less access to systematic data; which is one of the reasons inspections are resuming in this area first.
Historically, the CQC has been slow to incorporate digital engagement into their inspection regime. In its 2014 public engagement strategy, it outlined objectives around greater use of digital engagement methods which have not yet been deployed. This includes a free CQC app for service users and sophisticated social media conversation monitoring to contribute to service intelligence. With health and care services introducing digital systems at pace and scale to manage their way through the pandemic, the CQC will also need to expedite their digital transformation in response to the changing landscape.
As with remote consultation and monitoring of health and care services that have taken place over the past few months, the CQC will be evaluating their own effectiveness to determine whether some areas of operation can continue to be digitalised. This will inevitably put more onus on providers to be able to provide quality and compliance data in a digital format – on demand.
With this in mind, we expect the CQC to be requesting information from care providers including:
- Evidence of lessons learnt and the actions being taken going forward
- Evidence of preparedness for a potential second wave over the Autumn and Winter
- A clear plan for reopening to non-essential visitors
Whilst there is still some uncertainty in this area, there is an increasing need for care providers to move from reactive response mode to proactively ensuring inspection readiness. This is an area Radar Healthcare can support in full.
Whatever the direction of the CQC, there is no doubt that data and intelligence will continue to play a huge part in the evaluation of service effectiveness. Having this information readily available will not only support your inspection readiness but also encourage continuous improvement helping to deliver against your quality assurance framework.
Please get in touch or book a demo if you’d like to understand how Radar Healthcare can help you prepare for a CQC inspection. We bring all your quality and compliance data into one central system in order to deliver full visibility of performance across multiple organisations.