• CQC says it should have involved incumbent experts in contract procurement from the “outset”
  • Detailed breakdown of costs in bid proposals should have been sought
  • Review found CQC had “no contractual power” to get data from previous suppliers

The Care Quality Commission has admitted “earlier engagement” and greater transparency with its experts by experience “should have been made at the outset” of its 2016 contract procurement.

In an internal review on “lessons learned” from failings in the procurement process, the CQC recognised that where “pay rates may cause controversy” this should have formed part of the contract award discussions. The regulator said it should have asked for a detailed breakdown of costs from bidders, as well as the intended reliance on volunteers. The report said this “would have enabled CQC to engage with the community on the impact of pay changes and the broader impact of volunteers”.

The report also criticised the way the contract winners, Remploy and Choice Support, behaved when discussing pay rates with incumbent experts, saying: “Behaviours on communications must be discussed more clearly at supplier kick-off meetings to ensure greater transparency.”

The experts by experience retendering process was fraught with problems. The process was initially “paused” in summer 2014 due to concerns over the procurement timeline. Once it was resumed, incumbent experts were angered by proposals to cut their hourly rate by more than half. The CQC was forced to intervene on pay rates for the first 12 months of the new contract.

The report said the CQC has “apologised to those individual experts who experienced inconvenience and distress”.

The review, led by CQC engagement director Chris Day, also found the regulator held “no contractual power” to demand information from previous expert by experience suppliers. Due to a lack of exit clauses in the contracts the CQC was unable to obtain the workforce information it required ahead of the tender and was instead “very reliant on… goodwill” from incumbent providers.

Mr Day also criticised the nine month procurement timeline, saying 15 months would have been more appropriate. The decision on awarding the contract overran by 40 days, leaving the new suppliers with less than two months to prepare ahead of the start date. The contracts were awarded in November 2015 and began in February this year.

The CQC uses experts by experience – people with experience of using care services – as part of its provider inspections. It has invested £5.8m in the programme for 2016-17 with the view of doubling their participation in inspections.