Hospitals, GP practices and care homes could see pre-inspection notice periods trebled under a new Care Quality Commission approach.

The change would see hospitals receive up to 20 weeks’ warning compared with 6-8 weeks currently, the  chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said.

Sir Mike said the move would allow inspectors to “really do some homework” about trusts, including meetings with their commissioners. It would also enable the CQC to recruit the most appropriate experts to assist its inspection teams.

The change was recommended by an academic evaluation of the CQC’s new regulatory model.

Sir Mike told HSJ he was confident the regulator would not miss problems as a result of the more targeted approach.

Inspectors teams would “always look at certain things” such as staffing levels, mandatory training and records management, he added.

For acute trust inspections, the CQC would use its intelligent monitoring data on hospital performance to develop its lines of enquiry ahead of visiting a trust.

In primary care and social care, where there is much less performance data available, intelligence from public listening events would be used to develop key lines of enquiry.

The CQC is already moving from holding provider specific public “listening events” ahead of an inspection to a rolling programme of events which seek to collect views about all health and social care services in an area.

CQC chief executive David Behan said longer lead times would also apply to other providers.

CQC chief executive David Behan told HSJ: “This is a beginning of a journey that will see greater co-ordination in where we go. So one of the things we can ask is not what is this hospital like or what is this care home like… but what is it like to be 85 in Blackburn [for example]?”

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