Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature BMJ Interview

“We know where to probe,” says Mike Richards, the new chief inspector of hospitals

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 18 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5557
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. 1London UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Mike Richards, England’s first chief inspector of hospitals, tells Nigel Hawkes why the new inspection regime introduced after the Mid-Staffordshire scandal is bigger and better

Like Windows software, healthcare inspection in England is a never ending iteration of the same basic idea. Just as Windows Vista replaced the unlamented Windows XP, so the new look Care Quality Commission replaced its earlier (and equally unlamented) version, which itself replaced the Healthcare Commission, which had changed its name from the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, which replaced the Commission for Healthcare Improvement. All this in little more than a dozen years: so much energy, so much reinvention, so many unrealised expectations.

Cynics might wonder whether inspection works, or at least why its practitioners are so regularly kicked out in favour of others who seem to do no better. But Mike Richards, the first chief inspector of hospitals, is having none of it. “It can work, and it will work,” he insisted in an interview at the headquarters of the Care Quality Commission in London. “We have the process to make it work, on which we’ll build, and we have the people too.” He also believes, which some have doubted, that he has all the financial resources he will need.

By December 2015, when he is committed to having completed inspections of all acute and mental health trusts in England, he promises a comprehensive view of what care has been like for patients in every hospital, plus volumes of data to back it up. “My task is to give a robust but fair assessment of hospitals on behalf of patients and the public,” he says. “The question they want answered is, ‘If my mother or my wife or my child had to be admitted to a particular hospital, would care there be …

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