Doctors slam health regulator as 'not fit for purpose'

After series of alleged blunders, British Medical Association says it has no confidence in CQC's ability to oversee health services

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Embattled health regulator the Care Quality Commission is “not fit for purpose”, leading doctors have said.

The professional association for doctors, the British Medical Association said that it had "no confidence" in the Care Quality Commission's ability to regulate health services.

At the BMA's annual conference in Edinburgh, Dr Mark Corcoran listed a series of alleged blunders by the regulator, including the latest allegations of a cover-up over inspections at a children's hospital in Cumbria and its failure to properly investigate the Winterbourne View care home, where a number of patients were abused by some of the staff.

"It transpires that CQC 'inspected' Winterbourne View three times in the two years prior to May 2011 and judged it to be compliant with essential standards of quality and safety," he said.

"It seems CQC failed to perform its essential duties."

He questioned whether the organisation had changed following the criticism it received in the past.

"Has it changed? Has it heck," he said. "Now, Furness General Hospital - here we go again - this time it appears the CQC may have failed to pinpoint avoidable deaths in the maternity unit.

"But worse still, there is a suggestion that they covered up a report criticising the truth.

"What on earth are CQC playing at? Why do they still exist? How many chances are they going to get? If they were doctors they would have been struck off."

Poor care in the maternity unit at Furness hospital, part of the Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust, may have led to the deaths of 16 babies and two mothers. It is alleged that the CQC suppressed a highly critical internal report into how it inspected Morecambe.

An independent review into the actions of the CQC was initially published with the names of the three officials alleged to be involved in agreeing to suppress the report removed.

After a public outcry, they were named as Cynthia Bower, the former chief executive; Jill Finney, the former deputy chief executive and media manager Anna Jefferson. All three have denied any role in the alleged cover-up.

Dr Corcoran added: "I appreciate that there have been changes in management but from what I read in the press, the organisation blunders on in a hail of finger-pointing, back-biting and recrimination, still seeking to justify itself as a credible force, still seeking to blame those who have gone before."

Delegates at the conference passed a motion saying that the BMA "believes CQC is not fit for purpose" and that they have "no confidence in the ability of CQC to regulate health services".

They also said that the information governance function of the regulator should be "removed forthwith".

A CQC spokesman said: "The Care Quality Commission worked very closely with the British Medical Association during the registration for GP Practices in England and representatives from the BMA helped design the way the CQC is now regulating the sector.

"CQC looks forward to continuing to work closely with the BMA as it begins to change the way it regulates health and social care providers."