Many of this morning’s papers and other media outlets covered the latest round of public criticism of the embattled health and social care regulator – the Care Quality Commission. The House of Commons Health Select Committee issued a powerful report today criticising the regulator for taking its focus “away from its core function of inspection and towards the essentially administrative task of registration”.
The points raised by the Committee reiterate concerns previously expressed by the Department of Health and many commentators over whether the CQC is able to carry out its functions effectively. One of the major criticisms put forward was the 70% drop in site visits by the CQC between 2009 and 2011 while it grappled with on the added role of overseeing registration of dentists. Another was the CQC leadership’s failure to articulate to ministers, Parliament and the public the challenge the regulator faced in meeting its obligations.
Coming not long after Panorama’s exposé of horrific abuse at the Winterbourne View home in Bristol, the collapse of care home operator Southern Cross and the debate around the future of care funding in light of the Dilnot Commission report, today’s report prolongs the narrative of concern around our care system – over which the CQC has significant oversight responsibility.
Many of us have family members who have, for reasons of care needs or geography, spend part – and often the ends –of their lives in care homes or receive other care services which are now regulated by the CQC. Responding to the report the CQC cited the considerable challenges it faces – in terms of funding, staffing and meeting an aggressive timetable to adjust to changing responsibilities. All are valid points and real challenges, but many people would expect to see a more robust and reassuring response.
As previously covered on our blog, our care system is in great difficulty and struggling to meet increasing demand. Today’s publication was followed by the Committee immediately announcing a new inquiry into social care and tomorrow, the Department of Health is due to launch an engagement exercise on social care mirroring the NHS listening exercise launched earlier this year – the latest initiatives to explore and develop solutions ahead of a white paper next year.
Today’s report is an uncomfortable reminder of the challenges our country faces in terms of the meeting its care needs, not only in terms of the funding available to meet those needs but the fundamental checks on safety and standards in delivering those services.