Healthcare watchdog has ‘failed to define its purpose’

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The regulator of health and social care in England has not earned public confidence, a scathing report by MPs concluded yesterday.

Failures in the registration process and the handling of a whistle-blowing board member have “further undermined” public assurance in the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Health Select Committee said.

And despite “sustained criticism” the organisation has failed to define its core purpose, it added.

The body, which inspects hospitals and care homes to ensure standards are being met, was 
created in 2009. But MPs yesterday said the CQC has not yet managed to generate public confidence.

The CQC’s registration process “was not effective in ensuring that all essential standards were being met” at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, the report states.

The maternity unit at one of the trust’s hospitals – Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria – is at the centre of a police investigation concerning a number of deaths.

“It is failures such as those witnessed at Morecambe Bay which undermine public confidence in the CQC’s essential standards,” the report states.

Conservative Stephen Dorrell, chair of the committee, said: “Public confidence in the CQC was further undermined last year by its failure to address issues identified within its own management, organisation, functions and culture by its own board member Kay Sheldon.”

She ended up approaching the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust scandal to secure a hearing.

“It is essential that the CQC reforms its culture and working practices to address these shortcomings,” he said.

The report also questions whether the body should take the lead on patient safety in hospitals and care homes.

Mr Dorrell added: “The CQC also needs to be more diligent about communicating the prompt, accurate and complete outcomes of its inspections directly to operators, residents and relatives, as well as to public sector commissioners.”

CQC chief executive David Behan said changes were already underway.

“We will ensure that openness and transparency are at the heart of the way we develop,” he said.

“We are focused on protecting and promoting the health, safety and welfare of people who use health and care services.”

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