Adass urges CQC to improve engagement with councils

The Care Quality Commission has been urged to forge an improved partnership with councils in boosting the quality of social care in England.

Sarah Norman, joint chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services standards and performance network, said the regulator and commissioners had a joint responsibility to ensure quality but this required better engagement and information-sharing from the CQC.

She cited a CQC “league table” that ranked councils on the proportion of care homes that they commissioned that were rated “good” or “excellent”. The table identified councils that commissioned a relatively large proportion of care from “poor” or “adequate” homes.

Norman said: “It seemed a little rich coming from the regulator which is just as responsible for ensuring services are of a high quality. CQC needs to be responsible about the way it uses information to criticise us.”

Adass had raised this issue with CQC. “[CQC wants] to stand up for the user quite rightly and it doesn’t think users should be placed in poor or adequate care homes,” Norman said.

She said information sharing by CQC officials and council contract monitoring staff was vital in ensuring providers were adequately monitored but the regulator continued to be “patchy” on this point.

CQC director of regulation and strategy Jamie Rentoul felt relationships between the regulator and Adass and councils were good.

Of the commissioning league table, he said: “In social care, where we are providing quality ratings, we are holding commissioners to account about the quality of care they are commissioning. On occasions that’s going to create tensions with commissioners where they feel they are on the case [with providers] and it’s taking time to make a difference.”

He added: “It’s a useful process. There are ways in which we can improve the way we communicate it.”

Adass and the CQC have been working on a protocol to improve information-sharing on provider services and ensure duplication is minimised between commissioners and the regulator in monitoring provision.

Alan Rosenbach, head of strategy and innovation at the CQC, said a draft would be ready to be signed off by the regulator soon, though Adass would have to ratify it separately.

“We want to specify who does what in the system so providers don’t feel that this is a process that adds additional complexity,” Rosenbach said.

Norman’s comments reflect concerns raised by Adass in its response to the CQC’s strategy for 2010-15, the consultation on which closed last week.

They also follow Adass president Jenny Owen’s criticisms of the regulator’s treatment of eight councils rated “adequate” in last year’s annual performance assessment.

The draft strategy set out high-level CQC priorities – including championing joined-up care between health and social care and ensuring care is centred on people’s needs and protects their rights – and how they would assess services against them.

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