Breakfast seminar

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector, Adult Social Care

June’s Care Conversation heard from Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Andrea Sutcliffe

“We’re here to make sure that health and social care services provide people with safe, compassionate and high quality care, and encourage services to improve,” Andrea Sutcliffe told delegates. The responsibility for that high quality care and improvement, however, rested with those providing the care and with commissioners, she stressed.

A key part of this for the CQC was the re-introduction of targets, she said, which would allow people to make much more informed choices about their care. “A choice is meaningless if it’s not based on, or informed by, good information.”

The CQC’s five ‘key questions’ about a service were, “Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it well led? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs?” she said. “But for me it boils down to a simple test that I want inspectors to be thinking about – ‘Is it good enough for my mum, or anyone else I love and care for? Would I be happy for them to use this service?’ If the answer is no, then the service isn’t good enough for anyone. We want people to be positive about the services they’re getting.”

The organisation had consulted on its regulatory approach in April, with a first wave of pilot inspections completed in April and May, she told the seminar. This would be followed by provider guidance consultation, a second wave of pilot inspections, a new provider handbook and full implementation of the new approach, and by March 2016 every adult social care service would be rated, she said.

“That’s 25,000 locations, so it’s a big ask. But it’s important that we get through it in order to establish what we’re trying to achieve.” What this meant was helping people, she stressed, with three critical audiences.

The first was the people using the services. “They need to know that we’re listening to them, that we’ll ask the questions that are relevant to them and take action if necessary.” A bond of trust was essential, she stressed, and could be achieved partly through ensuring that information was clear and easily accessible.

The second audience was providers. “It’s absolutely critical that we work together to get that improvement. We’re never going to be the best of buddies, and there will inevitably be some uncomfortable conversations. But it’s vital that the relationship is underpinned by a knowledge that we’re making consistent judgements and being fair and consistent in the way we apply them – we’ve got an emotional investment in improving these services.”

The overriding framework was governed by local authorities and clinical commissioning groups, meaning it was also essential to work in partnership with them, she pointed out – “providing timely information and responding to the things that matter to them”. While the CQC was responsible for regulating services, the Care Act had also provided the ability to require it to carry out investigations into local authorities if there were relevant concerns, she said. “It does exist, but it’s a bit of a high bar to get over at the moment.” It was, however, very likely that policy makers would return to this after the next election, she told the seminar.

It was vital to celebrate the good, encourage improvement and deal with the bad, she stated. “There will be some great services, but there will also be some awful services – and those are the ones that make the headlines and influence people’s perceptions. We need to be, collectively, across the system, dealing with the bad.” The new ratings system would help people understand how they could move up through the scales, she said. “There’s a significant jump from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ – the bar is set very high. We need to be clear in signposting what it is we expect services to achieve, but we also need the sector to step up and celebrate what’s good.” A positive example of this was the annual National Care Home Open Day, she told delegates.

“We need to be on the side of people who are using services and be sure we’re applying an independent judgment, but are honest and transparent about how we do that and that there’s no hidden agenda,” she said, with social media an excellent way for organisations and public bodies to open themselves up for public scrutiny and ensure a consistent message.

“Why does all this matter? Because we want to make sure people get the best possible services. We have common purpose that people are absolutely at the heart of what we do.”  


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