CQC launched its new 5 year strategy on 27 May 2021 following the conclusion of the public consultation of its draft strategy, published earlier this year. Those familiar with that draft strategy will find very little of substance has changed to form the final strategy. CQC is proceeding with the changes across 4 themes:
- People and Communities – the lived experience of people will be central to CQC’s approach, making it easier for people, families and advocates to give feedback; empowering the public to understand CQC’s role and providing a clear definition of what “Good” and “Outstanding” care looks like.
- Smarter Regulation – more frequent changes to ratings due to CQC’s ongoing analysis of data to assess in real time the quality of care within an organisation. Physical inspections will still take place, but will be one of the many regulatory tools at CQC’s disposal to assess quality.
- Safety through learning – Clarity on what safe care looks like, and a focus by CQC on safety cultures within organisations. CQC will be taking quicker action when improvements to safety take too long.
- Accelerating Improvement – Improvement conversations to take place between CQC and providers, with the development of resources to help services and local systems, helping them find a route to improvement. CQC will champion new innovation and technology enabled services.
The core ambitions running throughout each of the above themes are to assess local systems to provide assurance to the public of the quality of care in their area and tackling inequalities in care.
There is clearly a lot of change ahead and it will inevitably take time to work through the detail for such changes before they can be instigated. But what is perhaps disappointing in the strategy document itself, and will cause uncertainty for health and social care providers, is the lack of any real tangible timelines for when the changes will begin to occur during the next 5 years. As such, we are no clearer on when, for example, CQC will start changing ratings more regularly or when we will get a clearer definition of what “Good” or “Outstanding” look like.
During a webinar to kick off the new strategy, Ian Trenholm, CQC CEO outlined the priorities for the first year, which were:
- To develop how CQC monitors risk and test a new assessment framework.
- To develop a new provider portal and more mobile friendly website.
- To carry out further research and engagement to develop collaborative work on safety and improvement.
- Exploring an approach to assessing how local systems understand the needs of people in their areas, particularly those facing the most barriers to accessing good care and those with the poorest outcomes.
But, again, these announced priorities lack the timeframes (incidentally always expected of any provider action plan submitted to CQC) for when within the next year they will be introduced. This understandably generated some comments from providers during the launch webinar, expressing disappointment at this lack of clarity.
What is clear from CQC’s language throughout the strategy launch is that collaboration with people using services and the public at large, as well as other stakeholders, is key to defining the detail of the future strategy. Ian Trenholm commented on this “team approach”. With this in mind, it is to be hoped that the timelines will become clearer in the coming weeks as CQC reaches out to invite involvement in the many different workstreams and projects it indicated were already underway to bring the vision of the strategy into a reality.