• Watchdog re-introduced post-inspection letters for all routine NHS inspections in January 2019
  • Comes after Public Accounts Committee criticised CQC for not publishing inspection outcomes quickly enough

The Care Quality Commission has re-introduced post-inspection letters for NHS trusts with an expectation that they are made public.

The regulator’s chief inspector Ted Baker said the watchdog has been producing post-inspection letters for all routine NHS hospital inspections since January 2019. Since April, these have included an explicit expectation that these letters be made public.

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm has also warned the regulator reserves the right to publish the letters if NHS trusts do not. 

Professor Baker said: “We expect trusts to discuss the findings of their inspection at the first public board meeting following their inspection, and where a final report isn’t available, the post-inspection letter can be used to facilitate this discussion.

“I would also encourage trusts to publish their post-inspection letter on their website. I hope trust leaders see this as a valuable opportunity for open and transparent dialogue with members of the public about our inspection findings.”

The move comes after MPs on the Public Accounts Committee criticised the CQC last year for not publishing the outcomes of its inspections fast enough, which meant “the public do not have timely information to make informed decisions about their care”.

The committee recommended the CQC make its findings public as soon as possible and work with NHS England and NHS Improvement “to ensure trusts routinely publish the post-inspection letter”.

In a letter to the committee chair, Labour MP Meg Hillier, Mr Trenholm said: “Whilst we do not have the power to oblige trusts to publish these letters, we will expect and encourage them to do so. We reserve the right to publish these letters ourselves if the trust decides not to do so, to ensure the findings are shared publicly at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The letters will only be sent after full routine inspections and not focused inspections where the CQC looks at specific departments or concerns.

Private hospitals, adult social care providers and GPs will not be sent post-inspection letters.