The SDC, which advises the government on the issue, examined the progress made by the Audit Commission, Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the CQC, which succeeded the Healthcare Commission in April 2009, over two years in embedding policies on sustainable development in their work.
The SDC defines sustainable development as living within environmental limits, meeting the needs of all within existing and future communities, achieving a stable economy where resources are used efficiently, using science responsibly and achieving promoting good governance.
CQC has ‘great deal to do’
It said CQC was told it has a “great deal of work to do” to match the “strong progress” made by the other regulators.
The report said the CQC “does not accept that sustainable development falls within its remit, and the situation has not been clarified by the Department of Health”.
It added: “The CQC has therefore failed to pursue a comprehensive sustainable development agenda, although its work on public health and well-being could cover certain aspects”.
Priority given by Ofsted
By contrast, Ofsted had developed a sustainable development action plan, was recruiting a head of sustainable development and was working on a document to help staff incorporate sustainable development into its inspection frameworks.
The SDC called on the CQC to develop a sustainable development action plan, build staff understanding of the issue and carry out a review in 2010 of how well NHS trusts are promoting sustainable development. It also said that it should incorporate sustainable development into its assessment of local authorities’ use of resources in adult social care, under the new comprehensive area assessment process.
SDC commissioner Tess Gill said: “The bodies that register, inspect and audit public services have enormous potential to encourage decision-making for the long-term benefit of people, their environment and the economy, rather than with short-term expediency in mind.”
CQC role ‘misunderstood’
However, the CQC chair Barbara Young said that the SDC had misunderstood its role, saying it did not have a regulatory role in relation to many NHS responsibilities, including sustainable development, unless this related to quality of care.
She added: “We must remain firmly focussed on issues that impact directly on quality of care. Safety of services and ensuring people are treated with dignity are at the top of our priority list. If we are diverted from this crucial mission, there is a danger that the public will not see the improvements in quality of care that they expect and are entitled to.”