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Nurses demand improvement in CQC inspections

Nurses have criticised the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for being “too slow” to respond to complaints and questioned the consistency of its inspections.

A survey of more than 5,000 nurses by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) shows many respondents (35%) do not believe the CQC sufficiently takes into account the importance of staffing levels and skill mix when assessing healthcare providers.

This, they claim, feeds into a “lack of consistency” in the CQC's inspections.

A spokesperson from the CQC has since challenged this claim and said CQC inspectors do “consider and report on staffing levels” but it is not the their place to determine minimum staffing levels.

“Our focus is on whether, at the time of the inspection, enough appropriately trained and experienced staff on are duty to ensure that care meets essential standards of quality and safety,” said the spokesperson.

“The CQC does not determine minimum staffing levels for health and social care services; we expect providers to make these decisions themselves based on the specific needs of those using their services and taking into consideration guidance and recommendations from professional bodies and associations, including the RCN, around staffing levels and skills mix.”

Nurses also expressed concerns that too few inspections are being undertaken by the CQC.

The report claims around 70% fewer inspections were carried out during the second half of 2010-11 compared with the same period in the previous year.

“That more than 5,000 nurses completed this survey is indicative of the strength of feeling on this issue,” said Dr Peter Carter, the RCN's Chief Executive and General Secretary.

“Nurses have welcomed the recent changes the CQC has made to improve its efficiency in response to concerns, and it is essential that the CQC is now supported to continue to mature and develop into an effective regulator. 

“However, it is vital that other honestly held concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The RCN has set out ten recommendations for the CQC to become “more relevant and credible”.

They include: ensuring much more detail on staffing levels are provided by CQC inspectors; a two-week target for responding to 'whistleblowing' concerns is set; and creating a better balance between unannounced inspections during the day and night.

Question: What advice would you give to help the CQC improve?