Commission for Social Care Inspection, Healthcare Commission and Mental Health Act Commission leaders have raised serious concerns about proposals to merge all three into a new Care Quality Commission.
In evidence on Tuesday to the parliamentary committee considering the Health and Social Care Bill, which will introduce the new merged regulator, they raised major concerns about the new commission and proposed significant changes to the legislation.
CSCI chair Denise Platt, a longstanding critic of the merger, said she remained concerned that social care, and the voice of service users, would be marginalised in the new structure, notably by health.
She suggested that it may be necessary for the Care Quality Commission to have “specific structural safeguards” to ensure that social care issues are not overlooked. She drew an analogy with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has a disability committee, created by statute, to ensure it adequately prioritises disability issues.
Platt also criticised plans to weaken CSCI’s function of carrying out thematic reviews into particular service areas, which have formed the basis for some of its harder hitting reports, such as the report on home care, published in October 2006. Under the government’s plans, these would not transfer to the Care Quality Commission for a year and would be downgraded from a duty to a power, she added.
MHAC representatives also raised concerns that the needs of patients detained under the Mental Health Act – its core responsibility – would be overlooked.
Chief executive Chris Heginbotham said the legislation had to ensure that the new commission conducts regular visits of all settings in which people are detained, and had adequate personal responsibility at board level for reporting on the needs and rights of detained patients.
Meanwhile, Healthcare Commission chair Ian Kennedy said the rationale for the legislation was not yet clear, the costs of the reform were high and “such a significant upheaval” risked reversing progress in implementing patient care.
Department of Health officials are due to give evidence to the bill committee today.