A worrying "disconnect" between official inspection results and the real standards experienced by patients has undermined public confidence in hospitals and care homes, according to a scathing report by MPs.
A series of appalling neglect cases at care homes that had successfully registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed that residents were unable to trust the results of inspections, the Health Select Committee warned.
The CQC, the troubled health and social care regulator, also failed to communicate the results of its inspections to patients, residents and their families, the report found.
Five years after it was established, the CQC had yet to define its core purpose, according committee chairman Stephen Dorrell, who called the situation "extraordinary". The report warned that there was a danger patient safety was "being obscured by other competing priorities".
It said this was particularly concerning as the Government had abolished the National Patient Safety Agency – an advisory body tasked with identifying risks to patients receiving NHS care – and absorbed its functions into a new quango, the NHS Commissioning Board.
The committee called on the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reconsider whether the CQC should be responsible for patient safety, arguing that the beleaguered body needed to win back public confidence first.
It highlighted how the CQC's registration process had not been "effective in ensuring that all essential standards were being met" at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. The maternity unit at one of the trust's hospitals – Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria – is at the centre of a police investigation concerning a number of deaths. "It is failures such as those witnessed at Morecambe Bay which undermine public confidence in the CQC's essential standards," the report says.
David Behan, the CQC's new chief executive, said: "In our strategic review we consulted widely on a clear statement of our purpose and role. We also set out our intentions to improve how we communicate with the public, make better use of information, and work more effectively as an organisation."
- More about: