Low staff morale at the Care Quality Commission is being driven by overwork and the fact that inspectors fear their ability to keep service users safe is being compromised.
That was the warning from Unison, which represents staff at the regulator, after the CQC’s annual staff survey found just 14% of staff had confidence in its executive board and 18% felt morale was high in their part of the organisation.
Unison’s national officer for social services, Helga Pile, blamed the drive to re-register 24,000 adult care providers from April to early October, when the new regulation system under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 replaces the current Care Standards Act 2000 regime.
She said she was “extremely worried about the pressure” on staff, who were “working from morning to night and weekends on a bureaucratic process” that was “bedevilled by IT defects”.
Pile added: “Members have said they feel this is a dangerous situation because they are being asked to push all registrations through in order to meet the deadline – regardless of any quality concerns or safety issues they judge should affect the provider’s registration.
“They feel this compromises them professionally and personally, and is diverting resources away from monitoring, risk assessing and inspecting services for quality and safety.”
Her criticisms were echoed by an inspector who has written anonymously to health secretary Andrew Lansley and care services minister Paul Burstow.
The letter, seen by Community Care, said: “Most of the inspectors are spending their time doing paper based re-registrations which add totally nothing to promoting the welfare of people using care services.”
He also said that staff were using a “bureaucratic and complex” computer system and urged the ministers to drop the re-registration process.
CQC’s director of operations, Amanda Sherlock, admitted staff were “working incredibly hard” to deliver registration and said the regulator would work with Unison to find ways of compensating them for overtime.
She added: “As with any new process, there are issues that need ironing out. We are doing our best to address these issues as they arise.”
Sherlock denied service user safety was being compromised, saying a site visit could be carried out as part of the registration process “if there are concerns about quality or safety”.
She added that there had been no reduction in the number of scheduled inspections, though those earmarked for July to September had been brought forward so they could inform the registration process.
She added: “I am absolutely certain that the work we are putting in now will deliver a more effective and efficient regulator that is better able to protect the interests of people who use services.”