Lord Darzi vows to consider case to strengthen inspectorate bill

Department of Health minister Lord Darzi has agreed to consider strengthening legislation to create the new Care Quality Commission after current proposals were criticised as too vague by peers in a debate this week.

Former health minister – and social services director – Lord Warner and Lord Patel, chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, one of three regulators due to be absorbed by the Care Quality Commission – were among those to criticise current proposals determining the objectives and functions of the new commission.

Current duties too vague

Peers said that the current duties, proposed under the Health and Social Care Bill, were too vague, and tabled a number of amendments to provide the CQC with explicit objectives. For instance, an amendment from Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Barker stated the commission should “protect and promote” the rights of detained mental health patients and the interests, human rights, dignity, welfare and independence of patients and service users in general.

Lord Patel welcomed her amendment, saying it would help ensure the CQC followed MHAC in regularly visiting detained patients, in order to to uncover abuses, warning that otherwise this function may be weakened.

Currently clause 2 of the bill, which lays out the CQC’s functions of registering and inspecting health and social care services and taking on MHAC’s watchdog role, states that its “general purpose” should be encouraging improvement and efficiency in services and ensuring provision focuses on the needs of users.

Warner: No adequate framework

However, Warner said some sort of amendment was necessary because the “bill does not have an adequate framework” and “lacks a clear statement of purpose”. He added: “There is no criteria by which to judge the effectiveness of a regulator.”

The amendments were later withdrawn, after Darzi said that “clause 2 may need to be enhanced to be clearer, and I shall look at this matter again”, though he stressed that the CQC must be allowed some flexibility in its functions and purposes.

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