• Ted Baker said the CQC would help “building positive cultures”
  • Warns he will not allow “efficiency to trump quality” when CQC begins rating “use of resources”
  • Says maternity care in England falls short and will be a target for improvement

The new chief inspector of hospitals has told HSJ the Care Quality Commission “wants to be friendly”, and a “strong partner” in helping trusts improve. 

Professor Ted Baker told HSJ: “We want to be friendly. I’ve been in some meetings in my time where the regulator comes in and it has been very confrontational. I don’t want the CQC to be like that.”

Speaking in one of his first interviews since becoming chief inspector in August, he continued: “The CQC has to be rigorous and demand high standards. It has to be clear to everyone that we will intervene if we find something unsatisfactory.

“This is not a soft touch approach, but I don’t think regulation is about a big stick as much as it is about influencing and building positive cultures.”

Professor Baker, a former medical director and deputy chief executive in Oxford, does not want providers to ”see regulators as someone that comes in and causes trouble for them when things go wrong, but [instead] as a real strong partner in helping them make sure things are getting better”, he said.

His comments come as the CQC moves into a new phase of its approach to inspection. There will be many fewer comprehensive inspections of hospital trusts.

Instead trusts will have an annual inspection focused on their leadership, and of one or more core services. The CQC will make use of a new data dashboard to track quality risk.

Professor Baker said there was a “strong emphasis on relationship management” in the new regime. Inspectors will meet with trusts quarterly but, he said, this was not “to try and catch trusts out”. He added: “I want trusts to be leading on quality and us to be supporting them.”

The new chief inspector also told HSJ he was “not going to allow efficiency to trump quality” when the CQC starts rating trusts on their “use of resources” next year.

Professor Baker said: “I didn’t come to the CQC to do anything other than drive up the quality of care. I understand people’s fears [about the use of resources rating] and we are very aware of them and we will make sure that is not an issue.” Concerns have been expressed that by combining judgements on finance and quality, ratings could “mask poor performance”.

He said it was possible the regulations governing the CQC would need to change “down the line” in order to help regulate new care models and new forms of healthcare organisation, but said “we can do a lot with the current regulations”.

Professor Baker said he wanted, in addition to accident and emergency care, that he wanted to focus on improving maternity services. As with his recent intervention on emergency departments - which listed unsafe practice in EDs - Professor Baker intends to bring together staff from the best maternity services to produce best practice guidance. He said: “I am a paediatrician and I am very aware that outcomes for children, perinatal mortality, stillbirths and neonatal deaths are not as good in this country as they could be.”

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