The chair of the health select committee has described it as “extraordinary” the Care Quality Commission is still not clear about its core purpose, five years after it was set up.
Speaking at the launch of the committee’s report on its annual accountability hearing with the regulator Stephen Dorrell MP said the committee was not recommending that “we throw all the cards up in the air and start again” but there was an urgent need for an “overhaul” of CQC governance.
The report concludes as well as lacking clarity of purpose, issues remain with consistency of inspection judgements and use of resources.
The report vindicates non-executive director Kay Sheldon for contacting the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public inquiry with her concerns about how the organisation was being run in late 2011, describing her concerns as “legitimate”.
However, it makes no comment on former chair Dame Jo Williams revelation of personal details about Ms Sheldon’s mental health during the accountability hearing. Dame Jo apologised for the comments at the end of the hearing in September.
The committee also called on the health secretary to think again about where responsibility for patient safety should lie following the abolition of the National Patient Safety Agency and transfer of its functions to the NHS Commissioning Board.
Mr Dorrell said if the CQC had been in a stronger position it could have taken on these functions and the government should keep this option in mind in future.
Asked if the committee had more confidence in the new chair and chief executive, Mr Dorrell said it was still early days.
He added: “We are not going beyond saying that the organisation is in better shape than it was but there’s still a long way to go.”
The committee welcomed the CQC’s introduction of a bank of clinical advisers who can be called in to help with inspections, however noted that only 13 per cent of inspections had drafted in one of these individuals since the facility was introduced. It also recommends the CQC increase its focus on culture during inspections, rather than easily measurable inputs.
CQC chief executive David Behan said the regulator had already begun to make changes and had consulted widely on a “clear statement of purpose” last year.
“We have demonstrated through the consultation on the strategy an open and transparent approach. We will ensure that openness and transparency are at the heart of the way we develop.”