NHS organisations need to look beyond their relationships with local authorities to truly develop integrated services, the chief inspector of adult social care has said.
In an interview with HSJ Andrea Sutcliffe said people in the NHS often thought they had “cracked integration” if they were “talking to their local authority”.
Such a strategy ignored the role of adult social care providers, she added.
“The vast majority of social care is provided by adult social care providers,” Ms Sutcliffe said.
“We need to be making sure that those links and [the] focus on working together extends into adult social care providers as much as it does into local authorities.
“I don’t think we see enough of that.”
She told HSJ that Care Quality Commission inspections of health and social care would soon consider how well organisations worked with partners in other sectors when assessing whether services were well led.
From October the CQC will also start policing the new fit and proper persons test for directors of NHS providers.
Subject to parliamentary approval, this test will be rolled out to all organisations regulated by the commission from April next year.
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Ms Sutcliffe, who was chief executive of the NHS Appointments Commission from 2007 until 2012, said the CQC would test whether individuals were fit and proper when organisations first registered, during inspections or when concerns were raised about individuals.
Asked whether the test risked creating an unofficial blacklist, Ms Sutcliffe acknowledged the need to ensure people’s careers were not damaged by “rumour and hearsay”.
She added: “Sadly, we also know there are people who have moved from organisation to organisation with things in their background.”
Such a situation should raise questions, she said. “Did [the board] really examine that closely enough when [it] appointed them?”
The CQC will begin implementing its new style inspections and ratings for social care in October.
A special measures regime, similar to that already used to assess NHS trusts, is also currently being developed for social care and primary care.
While Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority help NHS organisations placed in special measures, there is no such process in place for social or primary care.
Ms Sutcliffe said that in social care the regulator aimed to find the “most useful prescription” to help providers improve.
Failing services “may well” be closed after six months if they had not improved, she added.