In the face of recent criticism of its response to COVID-19, the CQC has issued a joint statement with the Deputy Chief Inspector for Mental Health Services (MHS) setting out their ongoing approach to the pandemic.
The full statement can be read here.
From 6 October, the CQC and MHS will commence a roll out of a new ‘transitional regulatory approach’ (TRA). The first areas to experience this will be adult social care and dental services.
Given the ongoing fluctuation in the risks arising from COVID-19 across the UK, the new approach is intended to offer flexibility to providers in meeting the needs of their service users.
The key components of the TRA are:
- A strengthened approach to monitoring, with clear areas of focus based on existing Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs), to enable the CQC/MHS to continually monitor risk;
- Use of technology and local relationships to have better direct contact with service users their families and staff; and
- Inspection activity that is more targeted and focused on areas of concern.
In essence, the approach by the CQC and MHS will be widened to assess areas where quality of service and care may have suffered in the face of the urgent need to respond to immediate risks to reduce the spread of infection. The statement advises that inspectors and experts will be tasked with monitoring feedback garnered from services users and their families, staff and local groups, and subsequently assessing risks.
We are, however, reminded that the regulators will not be able to returning to ‘business as usual’ just yet. Frequency of inspections, for instance, will not be returning in the near future. This is, perhaps, unsurprising given the most recent threat by the Government for a new national lockdown next month. Consequently, concerns surrounding the suspension of inspections of units supporting the most vulnerable will not ease just yet. On-site inspections will still only take place on a needs-must basis.
Significantly, the CQC and MHS vow to keep us informed in their reviews of the level of risk to service users, although there is no promise that the outcome of assessments will make a difference to the rating of a particular service. For care providers and service users alike, the CQC’s website will be one to watch.
Defending their previous actions during the pandemic, the CQC’s and MHS’ statement reminds readers that their paramount consideration was one of protecting the vulnerable. It is hoped that the TRA will build confidence that the CQC and MHS are ensuring safe, high-quality care. Even so, there will continue to be close scrutiny of the CQC’s approach to their handling of the crisis.