The Care Quality Commission has been accused of a “massive failure in management” after figures revealed that the number of inspectors employed by the regulator remained the same while inspections fell by 70%.
Earlier this month, Community Care revealed the number of on-site visits by inspectors had fallen to 2,008 from October 2010 to May 2011, from 6,840 over the same period in the 2009-10.
But the numbers of inspectors working at the CQC have remained virtually static over that time.
On 1 April 2010, the CQC employed 675 full-time and 122 part-time inspectors, while on 1 April 2011 it employed 679 full-time and the same number of part-time inspectors.
“What are these inspectors doing?” asked Martin Green, chief executive at the English Community Care Association. “The fact that they cannot organise themselves to commit their primary function is a massive failure in management.”
The CQC said inspectors’ time had been engaged in registering social care providers, dentists and other NHS services, under the new registration systems it implemented in 2009-10, under provisions set out in the Health and Social Care Act 2008. But it said this would “pay dividends over time” by ensuring providers met essential standards.
“We would be surprised if anyone was advocating that we should not give proper time and consideration to making judgements on a provider’s suitability for a licence to deliver services that meet essential standards of quality and safety,” said a spokesperson
“Inspection activity has dropped to lower levels during the push to register all services,” said a spokesperson. “It is a big job and we have had to concentrate our resources accordingly.” He said that this would continue with the planned registration of GP practices, adding: “We should have a clearer picture by 31 March 2012 of the level at which inspections will settle.”
However, Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of Action on Elder abuse, said: “I think there’s an issue about what priorities the regulator have given themselves; they have turned inwards rather than outwards. What’s more important, is it care of vulnerable people or the registration?”
He added that on site inspections were the best tool for ensuring standards of care were maintained.
Helga Pile, national officer for social care at Unison, which represents inspectors, said staff were being asked by management to cover a wider subject area of responsibility as well as a backlog of registrations. “This is a recipe for disaster,” she said.
“The commission and the government must listen to the concerns of inspectors and recognise that the weight of the workload and light-touch regulation will cause chaos within the care system,” she added.
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