All adult care services will face annual scrutiny but full inspections for top providers will be cut from twice a year to once every three years under changes to the regulation system announced by the Department of Health this week.
Commission for Social Care Inspection head of methodology Anni Hartley-Walder, the author of the reforms, told Community Care that all services would continue to be held accountable.
However, the best services, she said, would only face full inspections once every three years and the worst could receive several visits a year from inspectors.
All providers are currently inspected once or twice a year, depending on the type of service they offer. The CSCI has said that service users support more inspection.
Hartley-Walder said: “There will be a variation in the number of times we go across the threshold of a place, but every year we will be doing something [with every service].”
The CSCI will carry out an annual review of every service, encompassing information from self-assessments, complaints and changes in management, on which it will base its decision about when next to inspect.
It will also make unannounced visits focusing on aspects of services causing concern. There will also be themed inspections, looking at particular issues, which good providers will not escape.
The system comes into force next month, but all services will receive an inspection between then and June 2007, and only after that will changes in frequency take place.
The CSCI plans to introduce a quality rating for services next year on which it will consult in due course.
This will rate services as excellent, good, adequate or poor, in a bid to overcome the inability of the national minimum standards regime to differentiate between providers who meet the standards.
Those in the bottom two categories will have to produce an improvement plan that will inform future ratings and frequency of inspection.
There have been no similar changes to the inspection of regulated children’s services, although assessment of councils’ performance has altered through new joint area reviews and the annual performance assessment process.