The Care Quality Commission (CQC) as established by section 1 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (the Act) has as its main objective under section 3 of the Act to:

"protect and promote the health, safety and welfare of people who use health and social care services.”

In short, the CQC deals with registration applications for care providers as well as monitoring, inspecting and rating health and adult social care services against fundamental standards of care. Since 2014, the CQC has only published ratings of NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and care homes. CQC ratings range from ‘Outstanding’, 'Good', 'Requires Improvement' to 'Inadequate'

Following two recent consultations, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced that the CQC will be granted additional powers to rate more independent healthcare services including cosmetic surgery, online healthcare services, substance misuse and termination of pregnancy clinics, and other independent community health service providers. Only a small number of services are now excluded from rating (where e.g. they are already rated by another regulatory body or are relatively low-risk with limited frequency of inspections that would not be adequate for ratings).

The DoH’s intended aim in extending these powers is to provide the public with improved transparency about the standard of their healthcare following the Francis report, and to enable more informed choice where available. This in turn should push healthcare providers to provide the public with a better quality of care.

In terms of cosmetic surgery, the move to extend the CQC’s powers has been long-awaited by many. As cosmetic surgery is not a defined specialty, and the majority of procedures are carried out privately, regulation of it is not on-par with other specialities. No one will quickly forget the conviction of breast surgeon Ian Paterson who was found guilty of numerous counts of wounding with intent at a trial in Nottingham Crown Court. Whilst Paterson practised in the NHS, he also had private practising privileges at Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston. The government launched an independent non-statutory inquiry in direct response to his conviction, part of which was to include a review of the CQC’s powers and inspection regime.

DoH intends that amendments to the relevant regulations will come into force in April 2018. The CQC intends to launch a consultation on how it will rate these new services shortly. It will continue to inspect and publish its findings in the meantime.

Further detail can be found here.