MPs denounce CQC as an “ineffective regulator”

In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that the CQC’s abject failure to meet its targets for inspecting GPs in addition to delays in completing its reports – which it says are often factually incorrect – has seen it fall “behind where it should be, six years after it was established.”

According to the PAC report, the regulator’s inability to recruit sufficient staff coupled with a high turnover of those it already has, have impaired its capacity to carry out its inspection programme of GPs.

Indeed, the report found that as more than a third of inspector, senior analyst and managers roles remained unfilled in April – a situation that is expected to continue through to June 2016 at the earliest. Funding cuts could further worsen the situation, the report suggested.

PAC said that the Commission was “behind on its inspection programme [having only inspected 1,217 GPs against a target of 1,924] and is not, therefore, fulfilling its duty to be sighted on risks to the quality and safety of health and adult social care services”.

Concerns were also raised over the length of time taken between completing inspections and reports being published, with PAC finding that the CQC was typically taking 67 days versus a target of 50 days. It added: “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.

“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.”

CQC chief executive David Behan welcomed the committee’s acknowledgement of “substantial progress” since the last highly critical report by the PAC, in 2012. But he also recognised the improvements that need to be made. He said: ’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.”