• CQC considers “remotely” monitoring troubled providers
  • Routine inspections postponed due to covid-19 pandemic
  • Watchdog says East Kent and Shrewsbury maternity services will still be monitored

The Care Quality Commission is considering monitoring a handful of the NHS’ most challenged trusts “remotely” during the covid-19 pandemic, the watchdog has told HSJ.

The regulator, which announced it was suspending routine inspections earlier this month, said it was considering ways to monitor services in a way which ”shift[s] the emphasis from inspection to a broader regulatory approach which can be delivered remotely if necessary”. 

It added it was “urgently developing an interim targeted methodology” to provide assurance of safety and risks during the coronavirus outbreak.

The CQC has said it will still monitor scandal-hit maternity services in East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, and Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust. The regulator told HSJ it would “soon” publish reports on both maternity services, which were being investigated after multiple avoidable baby deaths were reported.

However, other services which are rated “inadequate” or in special measures may not be inspected during the crisis, as the CQC said it will only use its inspection powers “in a very small number of cases when there is clear evidence of harm”.

The CQC added inspection “is only one element of regulation” and it will “continue to monitor services in a range of ways”. The regulator regularly uses data and feedback from service users and their families to inform regulation — but has not yet specified exactly how it will monitor services while routine inspections are suspended for covid-19.

A CQC spokeswoman said: “We are urgently developing an interim targeted methodology which will enable us to provide assurance on safety and risk during the outbreak, and for a period of time afterwards. This revised methodology will shift the emphasis from inspection to a broader regulatory approach which can be delivered remotely if necessary.

“This is being developed at pace and we will be talking to providers, stakeholders and the public to ensure that we can continue to use our unique oversight of the health and social care system to help government target support most effectively.

“The role of regulation will change fundamentally during this period — acting as a conduit and source of intelligence between health and social care will be an important part of what we do for the next few months.”

Routine inspections were suspended by the CQC on 16 March  following pressure from NHS bosses and system leaders

The CQC’s 2,300 clinically-qualified special advisers have been redeployed to work within the health service, while other staff have been seconded to the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and NHS England.