The House of Commons Health Committee published their report on the 2012 accountability hearing with CQC recently.

This report was drafted with a backdrop of sustained criticism of the CQC which included Kay Sheldon’s whistleblowing evidence given at the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry. However, since the last Health Committee report in 2011, there have been significant changes within the CQC including a new Chief Executive and Chair and the committee acknowledge to some extent this new era of the CQC.

The Health Committee considered the following issues and included some of the following recommendations for the CQC to consider in the future:

  • Management and governance: The Committee recommended that David Prior, as the new Chair must, as a matter of urgency, overhaul the governance structures of the CQC. This is specifically in light of the issues that Kay Sheldon raised when she gave evidence to the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry. The Health Committee specifically states that her concerns were legitimate
  • The purpose of the CQC: The Committee stated that they were concerned that the role and duties of the CQC are still not sufficiently clear. The recommendation is that the Secretary of State should urgently work with statutory regulators and commissioners in order to simplify and clarify their respective roles. Equally, they recommend that the Secretary of State should reconsider whether the primary responsibility for patient safety should rest with the CQC

There is also a recommendation that the CQC should have a consultation on an effective regulatory method before the next accountability hearing in 2013. This consultation should include how to assess the culture of a care provider

  • Registration and inspection: The committee considered that, the failings at Morecambe Bay Foundation NHS Trust, were evidence that the CQC’s registration process was not effective in ensuring that essential standards were complied with. They recommended that registration should challenge providers and not be a bureaucratic formality

They also recommended consistent methodology for inspectors to follow and how clinical experts are allocated to inspections

  • Communicating with patients and the general public: It is recommended that, the CQC should develop clearer guidelines for communicating the results of its inspections
  • Whistleblowing: The CQC should be encouraged to support those who whistleblow, and CQC inspectors should assess the professional culture of organisations, which would include judgment about ability of professional staff to raise concerns within an organisation about patient care

Many of these issues will not come as a surprise to either the CQC or those interested in its activities. It will be interesting to see if the Health Committee’s concerns about the CQC reflect any issues that Robert Francis QC raises in the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report generally about care within the NHS (not yet published at the time of writing).