The main health regulator quango “cannot guarantee” it will spot another scandal on the scale of Mid Staffs- its new chairman has admitted.David Prior said the Care Quality Commission was “going to have to change” to provide the level of inspection demanded by the Francis report.
He also said it was a “no brainer” that the CQC should have dedicated hospital inspection teams, as recommended by Robert Francis QC, who chaired the inquiry.
Mr Prior, an experienced businessman and former Conservative MP, who recently chaired Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told The Daily Telegraph that we and his colleagues were “under no illusions” about the job ahead.
“We are going to have to change,” he said.
He continued: “At this time, we can’t give a guarantee that we would spot another problem similar to Stafford. “We can be much better as a regulator but at the moment we can’t give that guarantee.”
He said the CQC was already changing to be better at identifying problems.
“We are going to reshape the CQC, so that we inspect on a differentiated basis,” he said, explaining that they would have teams for hospitals and teams for care homes.
Mr Prior admitted this should have happened long ago: “It’s a no brainer, I think.”
He said the CQC would also move to more of a “risk-based” regime, meaning hospitals which had shown greater problems – such as high mortality rates – would have more visits and more in-depth inspections.
Another key recommendation in the Francis report is that the CQC should take on a large chunk of the current responsibilities of Monitor.
Its duty is to check that hospital trusts are good enough to gain semi-independent Foundation Trust status.
Mr Francis was scathing of Monitor’s contribution to the Mid Staffs scandal, saying it essentially ignored “issues of patient safety and poor care”.
He also criticised the fact that Monitor and the CQC’s predecessor, the Healthcare Commission, barely talked to each other.
These failings meant the “the public remained exposed to an unacceptable level of risk,” he wrote.
He consequently recommended that ministers should consider handing responsibility for authorising Foundation Trusts from Monitor to the CQC. Such a move would be highly likely to see the end of Monitor.