24 Feb What is the CQC and why is it important?
As specialists in compliance, we’re often asked by clients, ‘What is the CQC, and why should I become a member?’ So, if you’re about to launch yourself into delivering social or health care, or perhaps just start a job in that sector and want to understand more, then here we set out in a nutshell what the CQC does and its importance.
Everyone working within the health and social care sector should be aware of the CQC (the Care Quality Commission) and the role it plays in setting fundamental standards of quality and safety within the industry. Its aim is to ensure the general public receives the highest level of care while keeping us all informed about the standard of services available. If you work within general practice, dental, hospital, care home, nursing or mental health care, it’s imperative you become CQC registered, and then, once accredited, strive to maintain, and ideally surpass, the standards the CQC expect.
To put it simply, the CQC is an independent regulator of health and social care in the UK, like a ‘watchdog’ of the NHS. It is what Ofsted is to schools and includes a similar rating system.
In more detail, the CQC is an independent body which:
- registers health and social care providers
- sets standards for members to meet
- inspects care providers to make sure regulations are followed
- takes actions against those organisations where standards are inadequately met
- provides a transparent and public method of rating service providers
Keeping the public safe
The very nature of being a patient means the person is often vulnerable and in need of care. As such it’s critical that there are strict regulations around the delivery of that care and that they are applied across the board. The CQC seeks to protect the rights of the vulnerable, and to listen to and act on their experiences.
Keeping the general public safe is a key function of the CQC, and this in part achieved by providing a set of standards for service providers to work towards. Organisations are then graded depending on quality of performance, commitment to treating patients and staff with respect and compassion, effective leadership and meeting legal standards.
The CQC has also defined some basic rights which anyone receiving care should expect. These include person-centred care, dignity and respect, safety, safeguarding from abuse, the ability to submit an official complaint, consent before receiving treatment, and care from appropriately trained staff.
Without the CQC, visiting your GP or dental practice could be a whole lot scarier. However, although keeping the general public safe is one of the main roles of the CQC, its existence is important for many other reasons too.
Taking punitive action
Effective regulation goes hand in hand with sanctions and enforcement. For the CQC to apply standards consistently and effectively throughout the social and health care sector it must also have the power to hold providers accountable if they fail to meet fundamental standards of quality and safety.
Regular monitoring and unannounced inspection of social and health care premises enables inspectors to rate and report on each individual organisation according to set criteria. As part of their inspection process, the CQC introduced five KLOEs (Key Lines of enquiry) to determine whether a service was fulfilling its duties of care. The KLOEs question whether a service is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
Negative inspections from the CQC can have significant implications for an organisation’s reputation and survival. If a provider receives an inadequate rating after an unsatisfactory inspection, the CQC will take action against them. This can range from encouragement to improve, to being closed down. Other consequences after a bad inspection can be losses of funding, public confidence, patients and partners.
Giving the public an informed choice
The inspection and subsequent rating of providers of health and social care also provides vital information for the users of such services. CQC ratings, which rank a service as either ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, are published and must be visibly displayed in the place where patients use the service, i.e., at the entrance to a hospital or GP surgery. Such transparency supports users, the patients, in making informed choices when selecting their care provider. People can compare one service provider to another by checking the CQC ratings and choose the best one for their personal needs.
Triggering healthy competition
The CQC’s rating of service providers also encourages organisations to ensure they are compliant with regulations and meeting or exceeding standards so they can differentiate themselves from less competitive providers. In a free market, CQC ratings are a benchmark to which care providers can aspire, with an ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ ranking paving the way to continued patient confidence and competitive advantage.
Adapting policies and standards in line with new developments
Ensuring nationwide standards across a constantly shifting and changing health care environment is challenging. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that categorically. In a continually fluid landscape of healthcare, delivering more effective and sustainable services is paramount, as is being receptive to new models of working and upcoming technologies. By having a central and independent body responsible for maintaining health and safety standards throughout the social and health care sector, the industry is more able to manage and regulate these challenging and changing times.
The CQC also plays a pivotal role in improving quality of care through registration, regulation and setting standards. The Commission aims to raise the bar in quality of care provision and also emphasises the importance of building a strong, committed and educated workforce within health sector organisations where teams are ‘working on the same page’and aware of their individual mission and values.
Speaking with an independent voice
The CQC prides itself on being independent and speaking out about any major quality issues that occur within health and social care. As well as working with many other organisations, the Commission also commits to using the data and evidence it collects to help form standards and policies for the future.