The Care Quality Commission has come under fire for failing to recruit inspectors despite asking the Department of Health for an extra £15m to investigate problems more thoroughly.
CQC chair Dame Jo Williams told the Commons health committee last week that the regulator’s budget needed a 10 per cent boost to ensure breaches in compliance standards were spotted.
She said: “We need additional inspectors… and of course if we have additional frontline staff we need infrastructure support as well.”
But she also admitted the CQC had about 350 unfilled vacancies, of which 121 were for inspectors, and that the problem was “not a budget issue”.
Labour MP Rosie Cooper challenged Dame Jo as to why, when the regulator was busier than ever, it appeared to have a “long term vacancy problem”.
Dame Jo replied: “We’ve had to work within guidance to ensure that when we were changing our systems internally, if people were being displaced from one job, we had to give them the opportunity to come into other jobs.”
Ms Cooper said: “So the public have been put at risk because you were too busy internally restructuring yourselves, is that what you’re saying?”
Dame Jo denied that. She said around 70 jobs had been offered in the past few weeks. The regulator had made around 600 inspections a month since the start of the year and hoped to double that “at the very least”.
She also confirmed that quality risk profiles, which provide information on providers’ compliance with standards and draw on information from patients and staff, would be published publicly in the autumn.
Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “Why is there a delay?… It’s slipped again hasn’t it? It was going to be January, then summer, now it’s the autumn.”
Committee chair Stephen Dorrell added: “Can you not understand people might think this is a more urgent priority than the registration of dentists and that there’s a problem of priorities within the CQC?”
Dame Jo said: “I understand what you’re saying [but] we’re continuing to work very hard to make sure that by the autumn we’ve got something that doesn’t mislead, is easy to access and is understandable to members of the public.”