Regulator launches consultation proposals on new hospital inspection regime

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 19 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3955
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

Patients in England will be better served by a new regime of hospital inspection and regulation that will produce “definitive” ratings of care quality, the Care Quality Commission has said.

The CQC’s chairman, David Prior, said that inspectors would focus on “things that are meaningful to people, not on bureaucratic processes,” and that the new regime would be a radical break from the past.

Under the consultation proposals, published on 17 June, specialist teams would inspect hospitals to check whether their services were safe, effective, caring, well led, and responsive to people’s needs.1

Hospitals would be given one of four ratings: inadequate, requires improvement, good, or outstanding.

Every NHS acute hospital trust and each hospital within a trust would have an overall rating, and services or departments would be rated individually.

The consultation exercise, which runs for eight weeks, seeks feedback on how to improve care standards and safety in hospitals after the Francis inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The new inspection regime is set to start in October this year, with ratings to be published from December 2013.

The commission said that inspectors would be “more thorough” under the proposals and that they would speak as a priority to service users and frontline staff as well as to senior managers, board members, and outside bodies.

Most inspections would take longer to carry out than now—some could last 20 days or more. Their frequency and length would be determined according to the risk that services are thought to present.

The commission said that the proposals would strengthen its powers to tackle quality failures, making it easier to prosecute providers that breached fundamental standards, without the need for a formal warning.

It said that the ratings would provide people with the “definitive statement of quality of care.”

Prior said, “We have not been looking at the right things when we have inspected hospitals, and we have not had the right level of clinical expertise to get under the skin of organisations.”

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said that it was committed to work with the commission on the system so that it could ensure the “highest possible standards of care for patients.”

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, emphasised the need to give the “right support at the earliest stage” to hospitals deemed to be failing.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3955


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