The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England, set up under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
Its role is to monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety. These are standards that health care services have a responsibility to meet and that everyone should expect when they receive care.
The CQC looks at the quality and safety of care by assessing whether the service is:
- Responsive to People’s Needs
The CQC makes these assessments for each of the following 8 Core Services:
- Urgent and emergency services
- Medical care (including older people’s care)
- Critical care
- Maternity and gynaecology
- Services for children and young people
- End of life care
- Outpatients and diagnostic imaging
Services are rated on a four-point scale: Outstanding; Good; Requires Improvement; or Inadequate.
The CQC carries out a mixture of announced and unannounced inspections, conducted by inspection teams of professional and clinical staff, patients and carers from NHS organisations around the country.
When inspecting a service, the CQC uses different methods to gather evidence on whether it is meeting the five areas above, including;
- speaking with people who use services, as well as their carers and advocates
- holding focus groups with staff and people who use services
- observing care
- interviewing key members of the senior management team and staff of all levels
- visiting certain services out of hours and unannounced.
At the conclusion of inspection, the CQC makes judgements on how well the service is performing. A report is published which sets out their judgement and the evidence that this is based on. The CQC inspectors judge if any action is required by the provider of the service to improve the standard of care. Where improvements are required, the CQC will either instruct the provider on the improvements or in more serious cases, take enforcement action against them. The CQC will revisit the service provider soon afterwards to ensure that the actions have been taken and necessary improvements have been made.
In between inspections, the CQC monitors information about service providers through its ‘Intelligent Monitoring’, which includes a range of indicators from staff and patient surveys, mortality rates and hospital performance data. Together with local information from partners and the public, the CQC uses the Intelligent Monitoring results to assess risks and prioritise inspections.
The Care Quality Commission’s website has details of its visits and assessments.