Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the Care Quality Commission will be given additional funding to pay for its new inspection regime.
Giving evidence to the Commons’ health committee on Tuesday, Mr Hunt was asked whether the regulator would be given more money for changes to hospital inspection in the wake of the Francis report on the Mid Staffordshire care failings.
He said it would be given more, and that he was in discussion about how much. He said: “They will have as much money as they need to do this job properly.”
A new chief inspector of hospitals will be appointed and will begin work before the end of the year, Mr Hunt added. He said he would not be more specific about when the new money would be announced.
The decision to create the new post was announced as part of the government’s response to the Francis report, and confirmed earlier this month in the CQC’s three-year strategy.
Mr Hunt said the chief inspector should ask for evidence of what has changed in a hospital as a result of complaints from patients or families.
In a two-hour session Mr Hunt also said he would look into whether staffing levels should be published alongside mortality data as an indicator of provider quality. However, he also restated his view that the Department of Health should not mandate staff to patient ratios.
He added that the chief inspector of hospitals should look not look at a “single measure” such as mortality figures, but rather assess the quality of leadership, the culture in an organisation, clinical outcomes and patient safety.
The inspector should then “come to a holistic view of what the hospital needs to do”.
A public consultation on how the new inspection system should work will take place over the summer, Mr Hunt said. This will include asking how complaints procedures should function.
Speaking earlier on Tuesday at the NHS Clinical Commissioners conference in London, Mr Hunt said the new inspection regime would lead to a “dramatic” improvement in the quality of care, which would in turn lead to financial benefits for the health service.
And, he said, the new hospital ratings would make it easier for commissioners to reconfigure services, as they will help make the case to the public that local provision needed to change.