Significant improvement since first reported on in 2012
The Care Quality Commission is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. It plays a vital role in ensuring people receive safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care.
This is the third time the Committee of Public Accounts has reported on the Commission since 2012 and it has improved significantly over this period.
There remain areas where the Commission needs to improve its current performance. It does not make inspection reports available to the public quickly enough following an inspection and it needs to improve how it interacts with and regulates GP practices.
CQC's workload likely to increase if services deteriorate
It also has a number of challenges ahead. With health and care providers under severe financial pressure, the Commission’s workload is likely to increase if services deteriorate. The Commission needs to monitor this closely and understand the impact on its staff requirements.
The Commission wants to move to a more intelligence-driven regulatory approach, but to do so it must improve its information systems. It also has more work to do to ensure it has the wide range of intelligence it needs to identify early warning signs of poor care.
Since our evidence session, Sir David Behan has announced his retirement. The new Chief Executive will have a big task to ensure the Commission is able to tackle the big challenges that are on the horizon.
Comment from Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP:
"Sir David Behan is stepping down after six years running the Care Quality Commission. The regulator has improved significantly under his stewardship but there is no room for complacency.
Sir David’s successor will inherit a mixture of persistent weaknesses and looming challenges. These must be tackled amid Commission funding cuts and continued financial pressure across the health and care sectors.
Both are a potential threat to the Commission’s ability to carry out its duties, which would in turn undermine the ability of patients and their families to make timely and informed choices about care.
As it stands, the Commission still does not meet the turnaround targets it sets itself for publication of inspection reports. It must do better, particularly on hospital reports, and we expect it to demonstrate progress.
There is also significant work to be done on information-gathering. It is a simple point, but the Commission cannot hope to fulfil its vision of intelligence-driven regulation until it has in place systems that are up to the job.
Even then, it must ensure the information feeding those systems is adequate to flag the early signs of poor care. That means investing time in building relationships at the frontline with Healthwatch groups, CCGs and others.
The recent decline in whistleblower numbers requires investigation; the Commission must act to understand why this has happened and ensure people can feel confident coming forward with what is often critical information."