The Care Quality Commission’s “distorted priorities” were responsible for a recent fall in inspections of adult social care services, MPs have said.
Community Care reported in May that the rate of inspections had fallen 70% in the first six months of the current regulatory regime, introduced in October 2010, although they grew by a third in the first quarter of 2011-12.
A damning report from the health select committee, published today, found the CQC had become distracted by the need to register providers and professionals such as dentists.
“The bias in the work of the CQC away from its core function of inspection and towards the essentially administrative task of registration represented a significant distortion of priorities,” it said.
The report went on to condemn the regulator’s lack of a clear remit, as well its overly tight timescales and resources, bureaucratic registration process and a failure on the part of senior CQC managers to alert government to the problems.
Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the committee, said: “When an organisation is under a statutory obligation to do something, what it cannot be held responsible for is the circumstances it finds itself in.
“The CQC was in a position where it was not going to be able to fulfil its responsibilities, but it didn’t make government aware of this soon enough.”
Dorrell said if the CQC wanted to be seen as independent of government, it needed to be more open and honest about what it could achieve with the resources available.
However, the committee did not support the CQC’s recent request for an extra £15m a year to fund greater inspection levels.
“We already have concerns about the way the CQC has handled and prioritised its existing resources and do not believe that additional resources will address these concerns unless they are deployed as part of a clear strategy,” the committee said.
The CQC responded to the report saying it has now increased inspections and recruited more inspectors and is about to launch a consultation on changes to its inspection regime.
It also proposes to inspect providers against fewer criteria, unless there are specific concerns.
The report identified a range of other failings at the regulator. It was “unacceptable” that it took the CQC eight months to recruit an extra 70 inspectors following government approval in October 2010.
The bureaucratic registration system should have been trialled before it was rolled out to 23,000 adult care providers, the committee found. And it called for the CQC to drop its plan for an adult care excellence award in the face of widespread opposition.
It also said the regulator needed to have a strong focus on identifying the culture within care providers, to ensure it was open to people blowing the whistle on poor practice.
It said the CQC’s “woefully inadequate” response to staff blowing the whistle on abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View did nothing to build confidence among staff and the public.
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