• NHS Confed calls on CQC to suspend inspections
  • Says inspections will be “inevitable distraction” for staff during coronavirus outbreak
  • CQC says inspections will continue, but says they may be postponed

NHS Confederation has called on the Care Quality Commission to suspend planned inspections of front-line services so busy staff can focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

NHS Confederation told HSJ it will write to CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm, asking for the regulator to immediately call off inspections over fears the visits could pull staff’s focus from the covid-19 outbreak.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson told HSJ: “Our members recognise the value of regulation but given the current and future impact of covid-19 infections on front-line services, a temporary suspension of planned inspections would be the right move.

“Front-line staff and managers do not need any distraction as they confront one of the greatest challenges the NHS has faced in its history.”

The letter will say inspections would impose “inevitable distraction(s)” on front-line staff and efforts to manage the outbreak will “inevitably involve significant changes in the way services are delivered”.

It will add: “Any inspection in the coming period would involve assessing services and teams operating in circumstances which are atypical, and which are bound to have an effect on the normal patient experience.”

Earlier today, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens also called for CQC inspections to be suspended during the covid-19 outbreak.

Speaking at the chief nursing officer’s summit event in Birmingham, Sir Simon said: “There will be a small number of cases where it would be sensible to continue for safety related reasons… but the bulk of their routine inspection programmes is clearly going to need to be suspended and many of the staff who are working as inspectors need to come back and help with clinical practice.” 

Mr Trenholm, who said last week the CQC will continue to carry out inspections but will take a “pragmatic approach”, told HSJ today that inspections and regulation activity “will continue”. 

But he said: ”We will be adapting our standard inspection approach – adopting a targeted risk based approach to direct our efforts at areas of specific safety concern – this means that planned inspections of services may well be postponed. Clinically qualified CQC special advisors are already being supported to return to the frontline to help with the wider national response.

“We are very conscious of balancing the need for public reassurance with our impact on health and social care providers and will be focused on working with providers to ensure that they are supported to keep people safe while the health and care system faces a period of considerable pressure.”

At time of writing, a total of 456 people in the UK have tested positive for the coronavirus, and six people with the virus in the UK have died.