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Care Quality Commission proposes new approach to inspection of adult social care services

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The Care Quality Commission’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, has set out her priorities for improving the regulation of adult social care services.

In a detailed paper, titled “A fresh start for the regulation and inspection of adult social care” Ms Sutcliffe, who joined the CQC earlier this year, calls for changes to the monitoring and inspection of social care services, the development of a ratings system and financial monitoring of some larger service providers.

There has been widespread media reporting of Ms Sutcliffe’s proposals for the use of hidden cameras and ‘mystery-shopper’ exercises to monitor care providers. Ms Sutcliffe has indicated that she is keen to explore the role such methods could play in exposing neglect and abuse, particularly in light of recent high profile cases such as the BBC Panorama investigation into the Winterbourne View care home in 2011. Ms Sutcliffe has however stressed that the CQC will have to carefully consider the privacy and dignity of service users and therefore the decision to use these monitoring methods would not be taken lightly.

The Fresh start document also sets out a revamped inspection regime which will see service providers awarded an Ofsted-style rating of outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate. At present service providers are judged on 16 core standards, with which they are deemed to be compliant or non-compliant. The proposed regime will focus on 5 key requirements, assessing whether services are safe, caring, effective, well-led and responsive to people’s needs.

Ms Sutcliffe’s proposals also include tougher enforcement action against service providers who breach regulations, greater scrutiny of applications for registration (including assessment of applicants’ values and motives), basing inspection frequency on a service provider’s rating and the use of “experts by experience” (service users, their relatives and/or advocates) to assist with the inspection process. A full public consultation will be held on these proposals in the spring of 2014.

By Carl Johnson, professional discipline team