The Care Quality Commission is being reviewed by the Department of Health in the first of a series of evaluations examing the performance and capability of arms length bodies.
As part of the review, CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower has met with DH permanent secretary Una O’ Brien and 40 staff, including inspectors, have been interviewed by the team carrying out the review.
Reviewers will also visit one of the regulator’s regional offices and the contact centre in Newcastle which handles correspondence from the public. The DH has also contacted a range of providers and patients inviting them to contribute their views on the CQC’s performance.
In a statement, the CQC said it was finding the process “extremely helpful” and denied it was under “urgent investigation”, as had been reported by some newspapers.
In September HSJ reported the announcement of the review by Ms O’ Brien during her appearance at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. She said the reviews, which will be happening to arms length bodies across government, would be carried out annually.
The review comes at the end of a difficult year for the regulator which has come under intense scrutiny during the Mid Staffs inquiry. Former employees criticised the organisation’s culture for its lack of openness during evidence, while members of the executive team faced tough questioning on their light touch approach to regulation.
Ms Bower appeared twice at the inquiry, once in her capacity at the CQC and once in relation to her former role as chief executive of the strategic health authority NHS West Midlands.
In May the regulator hit the headlines after it was revealed it had failed to act on the concerns of the nurse who exposed the abuse of residents at the Winterbourne View care home, while in September the Commons health select committee criticised the organisation’s leadership for failing to stand up to the government when faced with a lack of resources.
In the same month, it emerged the regulator had actually carried out half as many inspections as quoted in its annual report, while an internal review of the evidence provided to the inquiry about the processes and procedures followed by CQC inspectors did not match the reality. One junior employee described the original evidence as “aspirational”.
However, a source close to Andrew Lansley said there were no current plans to change the regulatory model or leadership of the CQC - despite the health secretary encouraging the CQC to carry out more inspections - but would be waiting to see what the inquiry recommends when it reports next year.
The performance and capability review will report in the new year.