What social care providers should take away from the CQC’s new vision
In a bold new vision, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has set out a strategy, which it says combines “learning and experience” with “valuable contributions from the public, service providers” and its partners.
As a result, the CQC says its strategy, which covers four key themes (‘People and communities’, ‘Smarter regulation’, ‘Safety through learning’ and ‘Accelerating improvement’), will be more “relevant”, more “flexible” and more “responsive” to cope with the ever-increasing challenges that the social care sector faces.
The CQC also says that the new directive will ensure that it achieves its core aims – to not only ensure that social care providers deliver “safe, effective, compassionate high-quality care” but that the CQC gives them the tools to change.
In the final article, Quality Compliance Systems, the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, has asked Ed Watkinson, a former inspector, to explore, examine and demystify the ‘Accelerating improvement’ theme.
The CQC has pledged “to drive improvements across individual services and systems of care” by “empowering services to help themselves”. But how? It says it will “collaborate and strengthen” relationships with providers, service users and ancillary organisations.
In other words, the CQC will identify best practice and sign post providers as to where it thinks they can benefit from receiving extra support which will drive improvement. To foster improvement, the CQC has said that it will “facilitate national improvement coalitions with a broad spectrum of partners”. Reading between the lines, it would appear that the CQC is keen to recommend agencies that would provide support to services on a consultancy basis – when it is needed.
The CQC is dedicated to “making improvements happen”
Secondly, the CQC has set out a clear mandate to “make improvement happen”. It has promised to facilitate “continuous improvement” by being much clearer as to what social care services must do to provide a quality service.
In addition to promising to work in partnership to realise a culture of improvement, the CQC will provide analysis and benchmarking data to services. This will not only help providers to evaluate their services against similar providers, but will better enable the CQC to pinpoint areas where it can focus on to ensure improvements are realised locally, regionally and nationally.
Moreover, the CQC has cited “innovative practice and technological change” as a priority area that every provider should strive for. When you consider that the regulator has traditionally been very much on the back foot regarding technology, this is a huge step forward for the CQC. In the past, it is fair to say that when some inspectors have assessed services, they have not always understood the scope and limits of the technology being used, and therefore they have not been able to report on it and highlight outstanding best practice. However, going forward the CQC says it will develop “a co-ordinated, effective and proportionate approach to regulating new innovations and technology”. It has also pledged “to encourage services to play an active part in research”.
The pandemic created the perfect breeding ground for technology to flourish
During the pandemic, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams -have powerfully demonstrated that technology and innovation can drive efficiency in services. There will be fewer face-to-face meetings with external stakeholder and partners now. Most will take place on these video conferencing platforms. Not only will that will save time and money for a sector where budgets are already stretched, it will enable care teams to spend more time with service users.
Secondly, video conference technology has allowed service users to stay in touch with their loved ones during the pandemic, while it also enabled some partner organisations to continue offering services to people during the crisis and co-production to flourish.
How technology will develop in care homes in the future is unclear. But it is likely that electronic devices will be deployed much more widely to monitor activity and to support service users. With digital technology just beginning to gain a toehold in the social care sector, I think it is an opportunity too for trailblazers to showcase and share innovative practice with the CQC. By innovating, recording and clearly evidencing where such technology adds value, not only will they give themselves a chance to be considered outstanding, but the CQC will share their pioneering work with the entire sector.
You can read part III of ‘understanding the CQC new strategy’ here