• Regulator to top slice 10 per cent from five directorates, including reducing hospital inspection team
  • Money will fund £12m transformation project to replace “legacy” IT system
  • Sources claim there has been lack of consultation and “a huge amount of discontent”

The Care Quality Commission is to shrink its hospital inspection team as it slashes budgets to release millions to spend on new technology.

The cuts will help cut the regulator’s overall budget by £6m in 2019-20, to meet a reduction in its funding from government, as well as releasing money for internal transformation.

Sources within the CQC revealed the regulator was planning to cut the budgets of all its five directorates by a blanket 10 per cent. This would release £12m to create a new central change team to lead a digital transformation of the watchdog.

A CQC spokeswoman said existing staff would be encouraged to take on secondments within the new central team meaning it was planning for no redundancies overall.

But one insider at the CQC claimed there had been “virtually no consultation” with senior members of staff and the cuts had led to a “huge amount of discontent”.

The CQC spokeswoman denied this, adding there had been detailed budget discussions since September 2018 and monthly updates to senior staff from the CQC’s chief operating officer Kirsty Shaw.

A leaked internal message, seen by HSJ, said: “The CQC executive team and board have decided to reduce the budgets of directorates by 10 per cent for the next financial year. The money will be invested in developing infrastructure including the parts that cause inspectors so much frustration (eg: finding a replacement for [the customer relationship manager system].”

The email added: “Because a high proportion of the hospitals directorate’s budget is pay, this will mean that there will be fewer staff in the directorate at the end of 2019-20 than there are now. Despite this, there are no plans to make any staff redundant.”

One insider at the CQC said there had been “virtually no consultation with executive grades of staff (heads of inspection and above) about this cut and what it will mean operationally”.

They added: “As a group, the exec grades of staff are very disappointed with the change in management style since the arrival of the new CEO.

“Everyone in CQC knows the IT is clunky, out of date, and not up to the job. But wouldn’t seasoned executives review each function and what they contribute to the overall aim of the organisation, and make the cuts accordingly? There is a huge amount of discontent in the executive ranks regarding these cuts.”

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm told HSJ: “Our overall budget will reduce by £6m in 2019-20, in line with the [2015] comprehensive spending review.

“As discussed in public board meetings and through staff briefings, we are also investing a portion of our resource in ensuring that our inspectors have the tools they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible – so that more of their time is spent protecting people and helping providers to improve, not wrestling with out-of-date technology.”

In November last year, Mr Trenholm said he wanted to invest in new technology to move the CQC away from manual processes and to replace “legacy” IT systems.

However, in February, HSJ revealed Mr Trenholm was criticised for his leadership of a similar £26m IT transformation at his former employer, NHS Blood and Transplant.

A review found the project may have wasted as much as £17m.