CQC: regulator to have social care and mental health expertise

The Care Quality Commission board will include people with experience in social care and compulsory mental health services, after the government bowed to concerns that the new joint regulator would be health-dominated.

A government amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, passed this week, will ensure that the CQC’s board – consisting of a chair and several members, appointed by the health secretary – will include people with knowledge and experience of its full remit.

The CQC, which the bill will create, will take over the functions of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission next April.

Concerns over health dominance

Concerns have been raised repeatedly, including by CSCI and MHAC, that the CQC’s health inspection function would marginalise its role in regulating social care and monitoring the welfare of detained mental health patients.

In a debate this week, the government’s health spokesperson in the House of Lords, Baroness Thornton, said: “The commission cannot fulfil its statutory responsibilities if it fails to dedicate sufficient priority of resources and attention to social care or mental health.”

She said the amendment could lead to current or former service users, carers or their representatives being appointed to the commission board.

Baroness Young has been appointed shadow chair of the CQC, meaning she will become chair of the organisation next April for a four-year term, in a three-day-a-week role worth £80,000 a year. She is a former NHS manager.

Ombudsman to investigate self-funders’ complaints

Thornton also revealed that the government would give the local government ombudsman responsibility for investigating complaints by people who fund their own adult care services, when these have not been resolved by providers.

Currently, while people whose care is funded by councils have access to the statutory social services complaints procedure, under which complaints can be referred to the local government ombudsman, self-funders do not. This has led charities including Age Concern to claim this leaves self-funders more open to abuse, poor care or arbitrary eviction from care homes.

In March, care services minister Ivan Lewis announced plans to give self-funders recourse to independent adjudication.

‘Significant experience of social care’

Tony Redmond, one of three local government ombudsmen, said: “We have very significant experience in handling complaints relating to social care in the public sector. A good deal of that is transferable in terms of skills and comptence to the private sector.”

Baroness Thornton said this responsibility would pass to the ombudsman at “the next available legislative opportunity”. The government did not include any social care bills in its draft legislative programme for 2008-9, but the provision could be included in the planned National Health Service Reform Bill.

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More information

Department of Health information on social services complaints




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