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NHS watchdog accused of 'disconnect' with public

NHS organisations where staff are unable to raise concerns should be barred from providing care, according to a damning report on regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC accountability 2012 report released today (9 January 2013) by the Health Select Committee recommends that organisations unable to show they have a culture of “challenge and response” should be “refused registration” by the CQC.

It also called for more "support" for whistleblowers from both the workplace and inside the CQC itself.

MP Stephen Dorrell, committee chair, said: “When an inspector goes in, he looks at how often staff have raised concerns.

“When no staff have raised concerns it tells you that the culture is wrong - we have to attach more importance to professional accountability.”

He added that inspections should be "more than a review of facilities and records" and should include the quality of the professional culture which included how staff are able to raise concerns.

The committee also accused the CQC of being “disconnected” from the public in identifying poorly performing health and care providers and said a “loss of focus” had meant it has failed to fulfil its “core purpose”.

Dorrell said: “The key concern we've had both this year and last year with the CQC is its apparent inability to apply and reflect its essential standards in a way that reflects patients' views.”

He dismissed the notion of scrapping the CQC but said "there's an urgent requirement for the CQC to begin to build public trust. The public should be confident that a CQC inspection is a guarantee of quality.”

An open consultation has been recommended as the next step towards developing a concrete idea of how inspectors should assess “culture”.

The CQC's chief executive David Behan 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 and with others, including those who provide care.

“We have demonstrated through the consultation on the strategy an open and transparent approach. We will ensure that openness and transparency are at the heart of the way we develop. We are focused on protecting and promoting the health, safety and welfare of people who use health and care services.”