In January 2021 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced two consultations – one on its future strategy, and one on its inspections.
Launching its strategy consultation the CQC acknowledged that the changes had been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has seen new and innovative types of service started up using digital channels, and changes to service delivery caused by Government restrictions, meaning that CQC needs to “make changes to the way we regulate so that it’s more relevant and has positive outcomes for everyone, as people’s expectations of care have changed. We need to be more flexible to manage risk and uncertainty. We’ve learned a lot from our response to the pandemic, and we’re using this to put us in a better place for the future and support services to keep people safe.”
Its strategy is built on four themes: People and Communities; Smarter Regulation; Safety Through Learning; and Accelerating Improvement.
Later in the month it launched its second consultation, which was purely focused on flexible regulation. It stated that it needed to do this to “deal with ongoing challenges from the pandemic and move us towards our ambition to be a more dynamic, proportionate and flexible regulator.” Routine inspections of care homes had ceased on 16th March 2020, and in September 2020 it released interim guidance which stated that its inspectors were ‘spending more time on virtual activity and less time on physical site visits…we will request more information from providers in a digital format. This includes inspectors asking for access to digital care records when not on site.’
The consultation addresses how this temporary change can be made permanent in the future, with digital technology meaning that much information can be gathered without a site visit. It also suggests less rigidity in the updating of ratings, which will no longer require an on-site inspection, so that any inspections can be more targeted and flexible.
Responses to the consultations are welcomed until 4th and 23rd March respectively. It seems likely that in the future providers will experience less site visits, and more requests for digital information from inspectors. This is to be welcomed, as it will leave inspectors free to focus on services where clients could be at risk.