The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has adapted its routine inspections system drawing on the experience of a year of working under pandemic restrictions.
It suspended routine inspections in March 2020, but has started piloting changes in how services are monitored before implementing these generally from July.
Changes are being made to improve the CQC’s ability to monitor risk, to be more targeted in its regulatory activity and to bring information together in one place for inspection teams.
It will also test ways of providing a more up-to-date view of risk for service users.
There will be regular reviews and where service users are deemed at an increased risk of poor-quality care, the CQC may make an immediate on-site inspection without notice and give an altered rating.
Where nothing of concern is found the CQC will issue a statement to record that a review has taken place. In cases where information indicates a need for reassessment inspectors may seek more evidence.
A CQC statement said: “Inspectors’ judgement will still be at the heart of our approach to inspection, the improved access to information will allow inspection teams to act quickly using their judgement, supported by our quality assurance mechanisms, where other sources of information indicate greater levels of risk elsewhere.”
The regulator has also launched a protocol to share information that may indicate risks to service users, their carers, families or professionals.
It said: “No piece of information is too small to invoke the protocol.”
Information that might be shared could include situations that are not emergencies, but may indicate future risks and cultural issues within health and social care settings that would not necessarily be raised through formal systems. The full protocol is available here: https://www.cqc.org.uk/publications/themed-work/emerging-concerns-protocol.