CQC 'not yet an effective regulator', MPs warn

The CQC is 'not yet an effective regulator' and must improve to justify plans for a seven-fold increase in fees, MPs have warned.

The CQC has made ‘substantial progress’ since 2012, but remains ‘behind where it should be’ and is ‘not yet an effective regulator’, according to a report from the public accounts committee (PAC) released on Friday.

The PAC, which holds the government to account for delivery of public services, identified ‘weaknesses’ in the consistency, accuracy and timeliness of draft CQC reports, which it said often contain ‘too many basic factual errors’.

It called on the CQC to demonstrably improve the quality of reports and reduce the length of time between inspections and publication of reports within the next 12 months.

MPs on the PAC warned that it was particularly important for the CQC to demonstrate competence given that it is in the process of asking providers to pay 'substantially more towards the cost of their inspection’.

Map: CQC GP ratings

They also flagged significant staff shortages within the watchdog, which are impacting on its ability to carry out its full programme of inspections. GPonline has previously revealed that staff shortages caused the watchdog to postpone GP inspections targets once and may do so again.

The watchdog was told to write to the committee next July with an update on staff turnover rates, specifically detailing whether it has reached a full complement of inspectors and the full impacts the shortages have had on its inspection trajectories.

PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: ‘Six years after being set up the CQC is still not fully effective.

‘There’s too often a long gap between inspections and reports being published – and sometimes an alarming lack of attention to detail when reports are being prepared.

CQC data inaccuracy

‘One NHS foundation trust told us staff had identified more than 200 errors in a draft commission report, including data inaccuracies. The fact these errors were picked up offers some reassurance but this is clearly unacceptable from a public body in which taxpayers are placing their trust.

'If the CQC is to properly fulfil its duty to taxpayers, we must see improvements in the way it collects, acts upon and publishes information.'

CQC chief executive David Behan said: 'We are pleased that the public accounts committee has acknowledged the "substantial progress" that the organisation has made over the last three years and we have continued to make progress.

'We have always maintained that there is more we have to do, in particular with regards to improving the timeliness of our reports and inspecting all health and adult social care services. These are not new issues and we have been working hard to improve our performance. We have reported on our progress in public every month and we will continue to do so. What is essential is that we do not take any shortcuts, which could compromise the quality of the important work that we do.'

Photo: Robin Hammond

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