• Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust CEO says inspection will take longer than expected
  • Attributes it to availability of CQC inspection workforce
  • CQC says it has the planned number of hospital inspectors, but it did change its initial BHRT inspection schedule

A London hospital trust has said its Care Quality Commission inspection has been drawn out “due to availability of inspectors” – though the regulator insists it is fully staffed.

CQC inspectors first visited Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust on 3 September but “due to availability of inspectors beyond our control” have had to break down the inspection into a number of smaller parts, according to the trust’s September board papers.

They are now expected to finish their work at the trust two and a half months later, in mid-November.

The review will be “more protracted than would typically be the case” because of a shortage of inspectors due to “availability or leave or sickness”, BHRUT’s chief executive Chris Bown, told the meeting. This is “slightly unusual but it’s because the workforce they’ve got is being spread”, he said.

The CQC, however, said the ranks of its inspectors were at the planned level. Its deputy chief inspector of hospitals Nigel Acheson said: “Changes were made to the original inspection plan at [BHRUT], but it remains within the published CQC timeframes for inspection.

“Numbers of hospital inspection staff remain at planned levels across all regions, and inspection teams are additionally able to draw on bank inspectors as required if necessary.”

The trust has been rated as “requires improvement” for the past four years. It was taken out of quality special measures in March 2017, three years after being put into the quality regime.

It is targeting a move up to a “good” rating overall when the CQC publishes its report in March or April and was keen to have the CQC inspectors come to the trust, despite the longer timetable, because the next window for an inspection would be in around 18 months’ time, Mr Bown told the board.

This was echoed by Kathryn Halford, the trust’s chief nurse and deputy chief executive, who told HSJ: “While the period of inspection is longer than usual, we are very happy to work together with our CQC colleagues. We are pleased that the CQC are able to visit the core services that haven’t been inspected for several years in order for them to make a fair assessment.

“We know we provide high-quality care, and we welcome the chance to showcase our work to the CQC.”