• CQC’s year-end performance report reveals 133 per cent jump in enforcement action
  • CQC says it is seeing improvement when inspectors return to providers
  • Regulator finished 2016-17 with a £14m underspend against budget

The number of enforcement actions taken against hospital providers in England by the Care Quality Commission increased by 133 per cent over last year.

Details of the figures were revealed in the CQC’s 2016-17 quarter four year-end performance report, which will be presented at the regulator’s board meeting on Thursday.

The report shows that in 2015-16 there were 58 enforcement actions taken against providers in the CQC’s hospitals directorate, which includes NHS acute and mental health trusts, independent sector hospitals, ambulance services and community health services.

In 2016-17, it took 135 enforcement actions against the hospital sector – an increase of 133 per cent.

Of these, 116 were warning notices; two were fixed penalty fines; 13 involved urgent action requirements; and four were non-urgent cancellations of registrations.

The total number of enforcement actions taken by the CQC in 2016-17 jumped by 75 per cent. There were 1,907 actions last year, compared with 1,090 in 2015-16.

The CQC said there were 1,271 actions still in progress.

The report said: “This increase in activity follows the work in each of the directorates to improve our enforcement processes and ensure recording and reporting of enforcement reflects activity accurately. As a percentage of total inspection activity, enforcement action increased from 6 per cent in 2015-16 to 9 per cent in 2016-17.”

“We are undertaking more enforcement activity,” it added.

Most enforcement actions are against social care providers, which accounted for 1,509 out of the 1,907 actions, compared to 901 in 2015-16. In total, 740 sites were put into special measures, with 650 exiting the regime and 470 demonstrating “sufficient improvements.”

The report said the past year had been “a hugely successful one” with the conclusion of its comprehensive inspection programme, which provided a benchmark of quality across hospitals, general practices and adult social care for the first time.

The regulator said services were improving when inspectors returned. The report said: “Of those rated requires improvement or inadequate the majority demonstrate improvement when re-inspected. Overall the proportion of outstanding and good ratings has increased in all directorates during the past 18 months.

“Hospital trusts have the lowest proportion of outstanding and good ratings but have seen the highest increase in proportion of these ratings increasing from 25 per cent (24 of 95) 18 months ago to 45 per cent (105 of 231) currently.”

The CQC said it had 1,187 inspectors in post compared with a planned 1,274. As of 31 March, there were 334 inspectors in post out of a planned 377 in the hospitals directorate.

On its financial performance, the regulator revealed it finished 2016-17 with a £14m underspend.