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By Debbie le Quesne

CQC – not short of big targets with funds to match

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Austerity in the care sector is full blown – the cuts and their consequences are on everyone’s lips.

But did you know that the Care Quality Commission will be taking on 500 extra inspectors this year and spending £10m on training and development of its 2,000-plus staff,

Add to this the cost of employing the “experts by experience” (users of services) and others from outside the organisation who now join its expanded inspection teams, the roll-out bill for the new generation inspections appears to grow bigger buy the moment.

David Behan, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, was reported as saying last week in the national media: “We’re going to be changing the way we inspect at probably the most challenging time for services,

“We are at the beginning of a journey to excellence, not the end.”

A big statement, yes, but with some serious financial sleeve to back it up.

Mr Behan is well pleased, I read, with the commission’s budget settlement for 2014-15, a total £223m including a £120m grant from the Department of Health; up from £80m. It makes our small victories on fees seem derisory, don’t you think?

According to a piece I read in the Guardian “Behan, together with CQC chair David Prior, who arrived six months after him, are widely credited with having stabilised the crisis-prone health and care inspectorate, reeling as it was from damning criticism over its roles in the Winterbourne View and Morecambe Bay hospitals scandals.”

I think I agree and for the first time in ages there does seem to be leadership and vision – even though we don’t always see eye to eye.

What has emerged at a local level is a willingness for commission inspectors to work with us. There’s been strident steps taken to avoid the ‘them and us’ approach which has been ingrained in the industry.

Behan himself admits it is the toughest thing he has ever done. “We have achieved a lot, people have worked very hard, but there is a long way to go,” he says. Earlier this year, the Commons health select committee concluded that the commission had “a renewed sense of purpose” and had moved decisively on from a position where it had been “a case study in how not to run a regulator”.

The Guardian reported: “Central to this change has been the CQC’s new strategy that set out to move inspection away from tick-box compliance towards a focus on suspected risk; that foreshadowed the abandonment of generic inspection teams in favour of specialists; and that promised a new system of ratings for all care providers. “

Specialist team will be deployed and a series of handbooks are being published to that sets out how the commission proposes to carry out the new-style inspections and determine ratings.

The commission carried out a record 39,000 inspections in 2013-14, with warning notices issued in 1,588 cases – a rise of a third on 2012-13. In a crackdown on care homes operating without a registered manager, 228 homes have paid a fixed penalty of up to £4,000.

The cash goes direct to the Treasury – pity it couldn’t help care providers get a figure somewhere near what they are worth.

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