Everything you need to know about the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

Safe, effective, compassionate, and high-quality healthcare is something we all hope for when we need medical or care services.

In England, the Care Quality Commission UK (CQC) is responsible for safeguarding these standards. The CQC plays a pivotal role in setting and enforcing good care standards.

In this article, we will learn more about who the CQC is, what it does, and what powers it has.

What is the Care Quality Commission?

The Care Quality Commission UK (CQC) is an executive, non-departmental public body that independently regulates England’s health and adult social care sector. It is sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care.

What is the CQC’s purpose?

The CQC monitors, inspects, and regulates important health and social care services, including hospitals, dentists, doctors, care homes, community services, clinics, and mental health services.

According to the CQC’s website, its purpose is to “make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care” and to “encourage care services to improve”.

The CQC lists its values as:

  • Excellence – being a high-performing organisation.
  • Caring – treating everyone with dignity and respect.
  • Integrity – doing the right thing.
  • Teamwork – learning from each other to be the best we can.

What does the CQC do?

The role of the CQC can be split into four parts, these are:

Register care providers

All health and care providers in England must register with the CQC. The CQC then checks that they meet several legal requirements, including fundamental quality and safety standards.

When assessing new applicants, the CQC checks several important factors to assess if the services are suitable and meet their standards. These include:

  • Whether there are enough staff and their level of experience.
  • The size, layout, and design of the premises where they intend to provide care.
  • Their policies, systems, and procedures.
  • How they’re run, and how they plan to make decisions.

All registered services are then listed on the CQC website.

Monitor, inspect, and rate health and care services

All services registered with the Care Quality Commission are monitored continuously and inspected regularly to maintain standards and quality. This is achieved by analysing data about services and listening to the views and experiences of people who have used them. As well as gathering its own information and feedback, the CQC also partners with other charities and organisations to gather feedback.

When assessing new applicants and carrying out inspections, there are five key questions that the CQC asks. These are:

  • Are they safe?
  • Are they effective?
  • Are they caring?
  • Are they responsive to people’s needs?
  • Are they well-led?

Asking the same five questions each time helps the CQC ensure consistency and identify which areas the inspection team needs to focus on.

There are two different types of inspection that the CQC carry out: comprehensive and focused inspections. Comprehensive inspections are completed at least once every three years and are usually unannounced. Focused inspections follow up on a previous inspection and usually focus on a particular issue or concern.

Before conducting a comprehensive inspection, the CQC gathers information about the service. This information comes from various sources, including comments received through letters, emails, calls, and its online feedback form, information from Healthwatch, information from staff, and information from the care provider.

It then creates an inspection team to carry out the inspection team. The size of the team depends on the size and complexity of the service being inspected. The inspection team may include specialists like clinicians or pharmacists.

Take action to protect those using these services

The report that the CQC produces after an inspection highlights any areas of concern and recommendations for improving its rating.

The care provider must then respond with an action plan detailing how they will address the concerns and make improvements.

Next, the CQC makes follow-up calls or focussed inspections to ensure that the care provider is taking action to improve in the areas highlighted.

If a care provider receives an inadequate rating, the CQC can act against them to protect the public from harm. We’ll learn more about the type of action it may take later in this article.

Speak out and publish its views

After an inspection, the CQC produces a report on its findings that it publishes on its website.

These reports include ratings on the service’s overall quality of care. It describes what the service is doing well and any concerns, including any evidence about breaches of regulations. It also includes recommendations on how the care provider could improve its rating.

There are four CQC ratings: outstanding, good, requires improvement, and inadequate. Once they have received their rating, care providers are required by law to display it in the place where they provide care and on their website if they have one.

What powers does the CQC have?

If the Care Quality Commission UK deems a care provider to perform inadequately, it has the power to take action against the provider to protect the public and maintain high standards of care.

The action the CQC takes against the care provider depends on the problems it has identified and the severity of the problems.

The actions it can take include the following:

  • Using requirement or warning notices to determine the improvements that must be made.
  • Changing the care provider’s registration to limit what they may do.
  • Placing a provider in special measures where they are closely supervised.
  • Holding the care provider to account by issuing cautions or fines or prosecuting cases.

Why is the Care Quality Commission important?

The Care Quality Commission plays a pivotal role in ensuring that everyone receives the level of care they are entitled to and that care services adhere to a high standard of safety and quality. Founded on the principle that every individual has the right to safe, high-quality care, the CQC sets out a comprehensive list of fundamental standards that service providers must meet. These standards include:

  • Person-centred care – Provide care and treatment tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences.
  • Dignity and respect – Ensure all patients are treated as equals and given privacy when they want it.
  • Consent – Ensure informed and voluntary agreement for any treatment or care.
  • Safety – Assess risk and ensure staff are qualified and competent.
  • Safeguarding from abuse – Protect vulnerable people from mistreatment.
  • Food and drink – Provide adequate and appropriate nutrition.
  • Premises and equipment – Maintain clean and safe facilities and equipment.
  • Complaints – Implement a system for handling and responding to complaints.
  • Good governance – Run an efficient and accountable operation.
  • Staffing – Ensure adequate and qualified staff for care delivery.
  • Fit and proper staff – Screen employees for competence and integrity.
  • Duty of candour – Be open and honest about care and treatment.
  • Display of ratings – Publicly display performance ratings for transparency.

Not only does the CQC set these care standards, but it also takes on the crucial role of safeguarding people, particularly those who are sick or vulnerable. By actively listening to public experiences and feedback, the CQC gives a voice to those who often feel unheard in the healthcare system.

Additionally, the CQC holds care providers accountable for their actions or shortcomings. If a healthcare provider fails to meet the expected standards, the CQC can mandate improvements, protecting patients against harm and negligence.

The CQC is not just a regulatory body but an important protector of public health and wellbeing, holding the healthcare system to the highest standards while giving voice and protection to those who need it the most.

CQC training with Care Business Associates

Are you a care provider who wants to improve your organisation’s Care Quality Commission UK rating?

At Care Business Associates, we run a “Working with CQC” training course designed to empower care providers with the insights they need to excel in CQC inspections.

The course explains CQC’s inspection process, what they look for during an inspection and their key lines of enquiry. What’s more, it can be completed online in just one day, thanks to our live Zoom training sessions.

To check availability and reserve your spot, view our upcoming course dates and book online. Alternatively, if you have any questions, please call our team on 01772 816922 to learn more.