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‘Fresh start’ for care homes inspection

The CQC could introduce ‘mystery shoppers’ and hidden cameras to inspect care homes, the new chief inspector for adult social care has announced. The plans would have to be considered carefully, to balance respect for people’s privacy and dignity with safe and quality care. 

Andrea Sutcliffe outlined her priorities for transforming how the CQC will monitor, inspect and regulate social care services, with a greater focus on public involvement. A team of experts ‘by experience’ – care users and their relatives – would assist in inspections. 

Every care home and adult social care provider will be awarded a rating by March 2016, with the frequency of inspection to be based on ratings rather than annually. The plans will go out to consultation in spring 2014. 

The CQC’s work will be structured around five key questions; whether services are safe, caring, well-led, effective, and responsive to people’s needs. The regulator will also monitor the finances of 50-60 providers that would be difficult to replace if they were to go out of business. 

A tougher stance on both registering and action against services without registered managers will be implemented, and the CQC will seek to avoid duplicating activity with local authorities. Carers will be encouraged to explore how they can get involved in the local community and inspection will focus on leadership, governance and culture. 

Sutcliffe said: “This is a fresh start for how care homes, home care, and other adult social care services are inspected and regulated across the country. I will be leading CQC’s new approach by making more use of people’s views and by using expert inspection teams involving people who have personal experience of care. 

“We will always be on the side of the people who use care services. For every care service we look at, I want us to ask, is this good enough for my Mum? If it is, this should be celebrated. If not, then as the regulator, we will do something about it.”

Care minister Norman Lamb said: “No-one should have to put up with substandard care – there are serious flaws in the system when people are worrying about the quality of care their loved ones are receiving. We have made it clear that there must be a sharper focus on taking tougher action when things go wrong and holding those responsible to account. 

“Confidence in the regulation regime has been shaken, but we have turned a corner. I welcome the Chief Inspector’s new commitment to protecting people vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and to delivering better care.” 

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, said: “The appointment of a Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care is a positive step and the development of a new approach to how CQC will regulate and inspect care services, offers an opportunity to ensure that high quality regulation is the foundation of good quality care.” 

Sandie Keene, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services added: “Providing the public with a reliable means of assessing the quality of the experience they can expect to have, when arranging their care, is a fundamental part of the new duties and responsibilities our sector is taking on. ADASS very much welcomes this initiative.” 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive & general secretary of the RCN said: “Many of us will have personal experience of adult social care services through relatives and loved ones, and even more are likely to in the future. This means it is even more vital that care providers are up to the task, and this requires a robust and effective system of regulation and monitoring. 

“Also important is a focus on the monitoring of care providers’ finances. The collapse of Southern Cross was a stark reminder that the cost of financial collapse is not simply a matter of money being lost. The closure of a care home provider risks the health of vulnerable residents who may be forced to move elsewhere, and causes distress to families and carers, who are left uncertain of how to manage their loved one’s needs.” 

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