The Care Quality Commission is not up to the job of registering 10,000 GP practices during the next year and should not take on responsibility for regulating IVF services, MPs have warned.
A report from the Public Accounts Committee concludes the CQC “has a long way to go to become and effective regulator” and had been “poorly governed and led” during its three years of existence.
It also criticises the Department of Health for underestimating the upheaval involved in merging the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Improvement and the Mental Health Commission to create the CQC in 2009.
Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “[The CQC] has clearly been struggling for some time and the Department of Health, which is ultimately responsible, has not had a grip on what the commission has been doing.
“We are far from convinced that the CQC is up to the major challenge of registering and assessing 10,000 GP practices this year.”
The DH has already extended the deadline for registering GP practices from April 2012 to April 2013 after the pressure of registering other healthcare providers led to a sharp decline in the number of inspections carried out.
The CQC is also due to take on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s responsibility for regulating IVF services in 2015. The DH has agreed to “pause” this process after MPs concluded the CQC was not ready. It also questioned the point of the move when the two organisations already shared back office functions and had achieved the savings set out in the public spending review.
Pointing to the CQC’s forecast 10 per cent underspend for 2011-12, the committee said it could not judge whether the regulator had sufficient resources as neither the commission nor the department had defined what success would look like.
The committee described it as “astonishing” the regulator for quality has no measures for judging the quality of its own performance and called for the CQC to set up a dedicated whistleblowing helpline.
The CQC has faced growing criticism during the past two months leading to chief executive Cynthia Bower announcing her plans to stand down later this year.
However, in a statement the CQC said it was “disappointed” by the findings of the PAC as it did not take into account “significant improvements” made in recent months.
A spokesman said the CQC was on track to register GP practices by the April 2013 deadline and would be reviewing every registration application in conjunction with information from other sources including the GMC, Criminal Records Bureau checks and whistleblowers.