Leader of under-fire care regulator resigns

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The chief executive of health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has resigned, it was announced yesterday.

Cynthia Bower said it was “time to move on” after almost four years as head of the organisation, which has been heavily criticised over the last year.

Her departure comes as the Department of Health publishes its findings from a performance and capability review of the CQC.

It said the regulator had made considerable achievements since 2009 but more needs to be done to improve its services.

In December, a report from the National Audit Office highlighted problems as the CQC took on the role of registering all providers of health and social care.

It said the level of inspections of care homes in England fell “significantly” as a result, and the CQC had failed to deliver value for money.

That followed a report from MPs in September which found the regulator had “distorted” its priorities by focusing on registering providers.

Registering organisations led to around a 70 per cent drop in the number of inspections to check care standards and safety, it said.

Some 6,840 site visits to providers were undertaken in the six months between October 2009 and the end of March 2010, but only 2,008 were carried out in the same six-month period in 2010/11 – a 70 per cent drop.

Care homes for adults received 10,856 inspections in 2009/10 but only 3,805 in 2010/11, a 65 per cent drop.

The CQC has argued it was faced with the challenge of setting up an entirely new regulatory system and registering more than 40,000 provider locations against tight deadlines set by the Department of Health.

Ms Bower said yesterday: “After almost four years leading CQC, I feel that it is now time to move on.

“The process of setting up an entirely new system of regulation has been intensely challenging, but we have accomplished an enormous amount.

“We have merged three organisations, registered 40,000 provider locations and brought virtually the entire health and social care network under one set of standards, which focus on the needs of people who use services.

“I am pleased that the Department of Health performance and capability review, published today, recognises the scale of what has been achieved, and in particular the significant improvements made over the last nine months.

“I’m confident that CQC will continue to build on the progress already made, delivering increasing benefits to people who use services by shining a light on poor care, and I am proud to have played a part in this.”

Jo Williams, chairwoman of the CQC, said: “I am very sorry that Cynthia has decided to move on, but I understand her desire to take on new challenges.

“She has shown tireless commitment to this organisation, and she leaves it in a strong position to carry out our essential role in tackling poor care.”

Ms Bower will remain in post until the autumn to ensure a smooth handover.