Hospital Inspections To Be More Frequent But Less Detailed, Says Regulator

Hospitals will face more frequent but less detailed on-site inspections under new plans from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The regulator for England will also move to allowing up to five years to lapse between inspections of the best performing GP practices.

All hospitals where there are major concerns will still undergo full and rigorous inspections, but others will have one core service - such as surgery - inspected as a minimum, alongside an analysis of whether they are well led.

Inspection teams will be smaller to reflect the focus on core services.

All hospitals will need to provide extensive data to the CQC for their yearly review, while the CQC will also look more closely at the views of patients and carers.

The new strategy said: "Our inspections will be smaller and more frequent, with a maximum interval between them based on previous inspection findings, our ratings and wider intelligence about the quality of care of providers.

"We will have a targeted approach to inspection that focuses our efforts both on areas of risk and where quality is most likely to have changed or improved.

"Although we will retain large-scale comprehensive inspections where we believe these are needed, we will move to a targeted and tailored approach focused on core services in most cases.

"This will mean more frequent inspections on a smaller scale and a greater reliance on unannounced or short notice visits."

The strategy said there will also be a move to a maximum interval of five years for inspecting GP practices rated good and outstanding, subject to practices providing accurate and full data.

The CQC will also look more extensively at patients' and carers' views. Every year, the CQC receives around 40,000 pieces of information a year from the public.

Jane Mordue, interim chairwoman of Healthwatch England, welcomed the document, saying: "The experiences of the public must be front and centre of the way that health and social care works, and we welcome the fact that the CQC is embedding this idea in their new strategy.

"Patients and care users represent the greatest source of information that the NHS possesses in understanding how it's performing.

"Last year the Healthwatch network heard from over 300,000 people across the country, and their insight can add real value to the work of the CQC.

"We look forward to sharing our intelligence with the CQC to ensure that the public get the quality of care that they deserve."

CQC's chief executive, David Behan, said: "We're developing our approach to reflect changes in the sectors we regulate - effective regulation doesn't occur in a vacuum.

"But our role remains the same: consistently assessing quality of care using the information we and others gather; using what we know to help drive change and improvement; and acting swiftly to ensure people are protected from poor care.

'Inspection will always be crucial to our understanding of quality but we'll increasingly be getting more and better information from the public and providers and using it alongside inspections to provide a trusted, responsive, independent view of quality that is regularly updated and that will be invaluable to people who provide services as well as those who use them.

"And we'll make more use of focused unannounced inspections which target the areas where our insight suggests risk is greatest or quality is improving - with ratings updated where we find changes."