The Care Quality Commission will not succumb to pressure to increase regulation and is “absolutely clear” about its role, chief executive Cynthia Bower has insisted.

Ms Bower was speaking to HSJ in an attempt to calm fears that it has been left rudderless and vulnerable to demands for more inspections following CQC chair Barbara Young’s resignation.

She said: “We’re absolutely clear regulation has a completely central role… and we have been joining in a debate with all the trusts we work with about what the role of the regulator is.

“We’re working really hard to have a proper debate with the sector.”

Ms Bower said the system was based on “outcomes of people who use services, an assurance system, the trusts assuring themselves and us to ensure these standards are met”.

There are still plans to carry out the annual health check in 2009-10, but Ms Bower did not rule out publishing assessments earlier than usual.

She said: “There will be some statement about the quality of care in the NHS. Any amendments to that process would have to be agreed by the secretary of state. Next year we want to focus on registration.”

A consultation document will be published before the new year, setting out the CQC’s regulation plans. Public and political outcry over care failings would not influence these plans, she said.

Responding to complaints that regulators have failed to speak with a unified voice and made overlapping requests, she said the CQC was speaking to each regulator to agree how the burden on trusts could be reduced.