• CQC planning ’open and honest conversations’ with providers
  • Providers will be deemed either ‘managing’ or ‘needing support’ 
  • Services where serious concerns raised could be inspected

The Care Quality Commission will call healthcare providers to decide whether they need to be inspected during the covid-19 epidemic.

The regulator said it wants to have ‘open and honest conversations’ with providers, healthcare staff, partners and local authorities to explore ongoing challenges, resolve issues and mitigate safety risks.

The hour-long phone calls, which will focus on safe care and treatment, staffing, protection from abuse and assurance, monitoring and risk management, form part of the CQC’s ‘emergency support framework’ which will be rolled out sector-by-sector, starting with adult social care, from Monday 4 May.

Information gained from the calls will allow the CQC to decide whether a service is ‘managing,’‘needs support’ or possibly needs an inspection if serious concerns are raised. 

The emergency framework has been published after the CQC suspended its routine inspections in March so as not to over-burden providers during the covid-19 epidemic. 

When the CQC was asked by HSJ when it expects to resume more regular inspections of services, the regulator said it is developing a “longer term recovery plan” but, at time of publication, has provided no further details.

According to CQC’s framework, published on 1 May, “Our main aim is to support providers at an exceptionally difficult time.

“But we may receive information, either from an external source or through our conversation, that results in serious concerns about actual or possible avoidable significant harm, abuse, or breaches of human rights.

“In this case, we will assess the risks involved and decide to either provide additional sources of support, arrange a follow-up call [or] use inspection and enforcement processes.”

If the CQC decides to inspect a service, it will mean focused inspections for hospitals and primary medical services and targeted inspections for adult social care services, as happens normally.

“We will continue to inspect where we see evidence of risk of harm, deliberate abuse, systematic neglect or a significant breakdown in leadership,” the CQC said in a statement.

The CQC said the phone calls will not be inspections and they will not be audio recorded. A PDF summary of the conversations will be sent to providers, but they will not be published on the CQC website.

A spokeswoman for the CQC said its “regular conversations with providers” and information from staff and other data will “[provide] insight on issues that we need to explore in more detail with individual services to further scrutinise risk - in some cases this will mean an inspection, and we will be reporting on the number of inspections conducted at our public board meetings.

“We would want to be able to go into services whenever we see a significant risk rather than set an arbitrary limit given we will be guided by the intelligence we are gathering.

“Our longer term recovery plan is being developed and a large part of that will be informed by our regular engagement with providers across all sectors and what they are telling us about care delivery on the ground.”