The Care Quality Commission board has raised concerns over the performance of the organisation in responding to safeguarding information and taking action against persistently non-compliant providers.
Papers presented to the CQC’s board this week show it is missing its targets for following up on the safeguarding information it receives that may indicate that patients are at risk.
Safeguarding issues raised with the regulator are registered as “alerts” when it is the first agency to receive the warning, and “concerns” when information has already been given to another organisation.
In the third quarter of 2014-15, the CQC hospitals directorate followed up 32 per cent of alerts within one day, against a target of 95 per cent. Only 14 per cent of concerns were followed up within two days, also against a 95 per cent target.
The papers said it is also not dealing correctly with a growing portion of the safeguarding information it receives.
The number of warnings where “no action” is recorded has “increased markedly”, according to the documents.
In the first quarter of 2014-15 the hospital directorate had “no action” recorded against 352 of the safeguarding concerns it received, but by quarter three this had more than doubled to 740.
An internal audit has suggested this is mostly because actions are not being recorded rather than because they are not taking place.
However, the CQC has previously said “failure to record activity properly” was “not acceptable”. The increase has come despite of a pledge by the regulator in November to get a grip on the issue.
At the meeting on Wednesday, CQC chief executive David Behan said he would chair a meeting on the issue “so we can bottom [out] this once and for all in relation to what action we need to take”.
The meeting would include discussion of what “discipline” was needed to make sure staff were following the necessary recording process.
In addition to its underperformance in handling safeguarding information, board members raised concerns about the long term non-compliance with CQC standards by a growing number of providers.
The number of locations which have been non-compliant for over a year has increased in the adult social care and hospital sectors for two successive quarters.
In the hospital sector, locations which have been non-compliant for over a year increased from 138 in quarter two to 200 in quarter three, and now account for more than half of all non-compliant hospital locations.
Non-executive director Anna Bradley said she found the figures “quite troubling”.
“The fact that we have known for in excess of a year that someone is non-compliant and that they remain non-compliant… suggests that where there were risks they are just continuing and we’re not doing our jobs properly,” she said.
Paul Bate, the CQC’s strategy director, said the special measures regime and the ability it gave to “put a time limit on how long these things can continue” would be “fundamental to how we shift the picture on long term non-compliance”.