‘Surveillance’ system to identify failing social care providers

Commissioners and Care Quality Commission to share intelligence on providers that are causing concern through local networks, in move that could address Winterbourne-style failings.

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Efforts to identify and tackle failing care providers are being stepped up through the creation of “surveillance” groups in which commissioners and monitoring bodies will share intelligence on organisations.

The plan to set up “quality surveillance groups” for health and social care was set out in a report today from the National Quality Board, which oversees care quality issues across the two sectors.

The groups are designed to enable the Care Quality Commission, health and social care commissioners and other monitoring bodies to share information about providers, to help agencies piece together the separate bits of information they hold to identify concerns more quickly.

The failure of monitoring agencies to piece together information was one of the key issues identified in the serious case review into the Winterbourne View scandal, published last week.

“Across a health and care economy, there will be a wealth of information and  intelligence, gathered formally and informally, about the providers of services to
that population,” said today’s report. “Often the information that one party alone has will not cause concern, however, when combined with intelligence that, for example, a regulator may have, would point to a potential problem that should be investigated further.”

Twenty seven local quality surveillance groups will be set up across England, based on the areas covered by the NHS Commissioning Board’s local area teams, including representatives from relevant councils, the CQC, clinical commissioning groups and local Healthwatch groups, which represent service users.

Groups will be overseen by the NHS Commissioning Board and would be expected to meet monthly, with each meeting considering groups of providers. Where a group member has concerns about serious failure at a provider, it should trigger a “risk summit”, in which relevant members of the surveillance group should come together to pool their intelligence and determine further actions.

This could include regulatory action by the Care Quality Commission, referral of staff to professional regulators or safeguarding action. Today’s report said that one group member should co-ordinate the response, chairing further meetings and ensuring action is taken.

The report is in draft form and will be revised in the light of the findings of the public inquiry into the monitoring of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust during the time of the Stafford Hospital scandal. Its report is due to be published in October.

Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults’ editor.

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