The Care Quality Commission has scaled back its inspection ambitions for the rest of 2014-15 as it seeks to ease pressure on its hard pressed workforce and struggles to recruit enough high calibre staff.

The regulator’s planned reduction in workload was revealed by its chief executive David Behan in an exclusive interview with HSJ in which he also admitted some inspection teams were operating with just half their full complement.

He said the CQC’s original plan had been “recalibrated” because “we have not recruited the numbers of staff during the early parts of this year we anticipated”.

He insisted recruitment of extra inspectors was taking longer than expected because the CQC had set “high standards” for new recruits. He said: “I think we’ve been right to have high standards about who comes into the organisation… we’ve been clear that I’m not going to drop the standards on who comes to work in the CQC.”

Mr Behan’s comments come after an internal investigation revealed a “flawed” hiring process in 2012 left the CQC with more than 100 inspectors who had not met its recruitment standards at that time. Mr Behan admitted these revelations had been “difficult” for the organisation and he had considered at times that “it would have been easier to try and cover this up”. Mr Behan said: “I’ve got inspectors who are asked when they go and inspect: ‘when were you appointed?’”

Commenting on this problem - revealed by HSJ last month - he said the CQC should be judged on how it managed its difficulties. “These are the defining moments in the organisation,” he said. “When we find a problem what do we do?”

Its decision to scale back inspections in the second half of this year was also a response to staff concerns about their workloads, he added.

As revealed by HSJ in June, inspectors had complained to management about feeling “exhausted” and “drained” because of the demands of their work. Mr Behan said some inspection teams had between two and four vacancies out of a full complement of eight.

“Are we doing this to react to what our teams were telling us about the volume of work? Yes,” he said. “It’s not reasonable for me to expect them to operate as if they were fully staffed.”

Although the regulator would inspect fewer sites in the second half of this year than initially planned, he said its more intensive approach meant the number of “inspection days” would be increased from last year. While it was unable to say how many fewer inspections it would undertake than anticipated, it expected a larger proportion would be because of concerns than scheduled inspections.

Despite the recruitment difficulties, Mr Behan said he remained confident the CQC would recruit a “full workforce”.

“If I look at some of the management positions we’ve just filled - deputy chief inspectors, heads of inspection - we’ve got no shortage of talented people to come and work for CQC.”

The regulator was “working hard” to ensure its target of inspecting all acute trusts by the end of December 2015 would still be met, he said.

“I said it would take three years to introduce these changes. We’re halfway through, it’s always a difficult period halfway through any change programme.”

“The worse thing I could do now is blink.”



CQC to slow inspections amid staff pressures