Guide to the Care Quality Commission for Health & Social Care Providers

Adrian A.
Feb 7, 2023

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the UK’s independent health and social care regulator. They ensure that all healthcare services meet the required quality and safety standards.

Care quality commission guide

The CQC has created essential guidelines to help healthcare providers understand their legal obligations and ensure they are compliant in providing safe, compassionate, high-quality care.

This article will explore the CQC Guide to help health and social organisations in the UK understand CQC standards. We will also cover best practices and tools to help relevant businesses meet CQC standards, so their patients receive the highest quality of care possible.

Overview of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC is responsible for meeting two groups of regulations:

CQC’s objective is to:

  • Ensure health and social care services provide safe, compassionate, high-quality care.
  • Provide the public access to their inspection reports so they can make informed choices to get the right care for themselves, a relative, or a friend.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring, inspecting and regulating health and social care providers in the UK.
  • Taking action when they’ve identified non-compliance or someone has raised a complaint.

Organisations regulated by the CQC

CQC regulates providers’ quality and safety standards registered as a Care Quality provider. The organisations that are eligible to register as a Care Quality provider under the regulation of the CQC fall under the following services:

  1. Ambulances (both NHS and independent ambulance services)
  2. Care homes, including residential and nursing homes
  3. Clinics, including family planning and slimming clinics
  4. Community-based services, including services for people with learning disabilities and substance misuse services
  5. Dentists
  6. GPs and doctors, including GP practices, walk-in centres, and out-of-hours services
  7. Hospice services provide care for people who have life-limiting conditions or are at the end of their lives.
  8. NHS trusts and independent hospitals
  9. Mental health services, including those for detained patients
  10. Home care agencies, mobile doctors, and services over the phone

The CQC also coordinates cross-sector inspections in partnership with relevant authorities to monitor, inspect, and regulate:

  1. Health services for children
  2. Defence medical treatment facilities
  3. HM Inspectorate of Prisons
  4. Urgent and emergency care systems

CQC inspection process

The CQC is divided into three core departments:

  1. Hospitals
  2. Adult social care
  3. General practice

Each department is led by a Chief inspector who leads expert inspection teams that include doctors, nurses, GPs, social workers, and members of the public.

Step 1: Start of the visit

The CQC inspector or inspection team will usually meet a senior staff of the organisation and explain who the inspection team are, the scope and purpose of the inspection, and how they will communicate their findings. 

Their inspection teams conduct thorough inspections of health and social care organisations. Here’s an overview of their process:

Step 2: Gathering evidence

The CQC inspection team will gather opinions from people who use the organisation’s services via one-on-one and group interviews, comment cards, pop-up engagement stalls, and complaints. They will use the same methods to gather information from staff.

In addition, the team will also observe how care and treatment are delivered, look into individual care pathways, review records, documents and policies, and inspect the places where people receive care.

Step 3: Giving feedback

At the final stage, the CQC inspector or a senior member of the inspection team will hold a feedback meeting with the organisation’s senior staff. In this meeting, they will:

  • Present a summary of their findings
  • Highlight any issues that need addressing
  • List out any specific actions the organisation needs to take immediately
  • Discuss future announced visits
  • Explain how they will make their judgements and publish them.

Five key lines of enquiry

At the second step of gathering evidence, the five key lines of enquiry the CQC inspection team will ask are:

  1. Is this care safe?
    Services should protect patients from abuse and avoidable harm. This includes keeping premises clean, low infection rates, and other best standard practices to prevent harm.

  2. Is this care effective?
    All care, treatment, and support should be based on the best available evidence to help patients achieve good outcomes or ensure their quality of life is the best.
  1. Is it caring?
    The organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their staff treats all patients with compassion, kindness, dignity, and respect and without bias or bigotry.
  1. Is this organisation well-led?
    The organisation has leadership, management, and systems to provide high-quality care. They have systems to learn, innovate, and improve, such as quality control inspections and systems to report hazards and incidents.

  2. Is the organisation responsive to people’s needs?
    The services are organised, and the staff have clarity on their role. The organisation makes it easy for patients to get what they need, such as organising appointments efficiently and a system to collect, listen to, and respond to complaints.

CQC Guide: What organisations need to know

The CQC guide was first published on 1 April 2015 in compliance with Section 23 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (HSCA 2008).

The CQC Guide’s objective is to help:

  • Prospective providers wanting to apply as Care Quality providers determine whether they can meet the regulation’s requirements.
  • Registered health and social care providers stay in compliance with their regulations. 

The CQC guide breaks down the quality and safety standards according to sectors and service types:

  1. Adult social care
  2. General practitioners
  3. NHS trusts
  4. Independent doctors and clinics
  5. Dentists
  6. Online primary care
  7. Urgent care
  8. Independent healthcare

Organisations are responsible for becoming familiar with their sector’s essential standards of care and safety.

Repercussions of non-compliance with the CQC

The CQC have a right to prosecute if any registered organisations breach: 

  • The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014
  • The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Regulations 2015

Before prosecution, the CQC may serve a warning notice under Section 29A of the Health and Social Care Act 2008. However, they also have the right to prosecute without first issuing a Warning Notice.

Their fixed penalties and prosecution range from £100 to £4,000. A few offences, such as false descriptions of concerns or failure to comply with conditions of registration, have an unlimited maximum fine.

Record keeping for CQC compliance

It’s imperative for CQC-registered organisations or those interested in registering to have thorough processes to report incidents and other events, complete H&S inspections, and keep all those records. 

Not doing so can put an organisation at risk for failing to provide documents or information related to patient care and safety. If found guilty of this offence, they can be fined up to £2,500 under CQC enforcement.

If the organisation also fails to provide sufficient explanation of any matter related to care and safety — such as a complaint, hazard, accident, or incident — they can be fined up to a maximum of £2,500.

Digitalising inspections for CQC compliance

Regular inspections can ensure an organisation meets specific standards to deliver safe, effective, caring, and responsive care. Here are some examples of inspections:

  • Regular safety inspections of equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, beds, etc.
  • Vehicle inspection of ambulances at the beginning of each driver’s shift
  • Weekly inspection of medical care equipment to ensure it is in safe and effective condition
  • Daily inspection of premises to make sure that stairways, aisles, hallways, and wheelchair access ramps are free from obstacles and are not slippery
  • Consumer feedback forms to evaluate the quality of care they received

With Vatix’s inspection software, organisations can make the entire inspection process much easier and faster, from completing the inspection to applying corrective actions.

Here’s an example of how it works:

  1. Using an intuitive drag-and-drop template builder, the H&S team can create template inspection forms specific to their organisation’s needs.

  1. Employees can choose a relevant inspection form and complete it via a mobile app — without needing to write on forms and handle unnecessary paperwork. They can also easily add relevant photos or documents to the inspection report without creating additional paperwork to manage and file. 

  1. Managers or supervisors will be alerted of any issues reported on their mobile devices in real time. It’s also for them to search for outstanding issues without the delay of processing, filing, and searching for paperwork.

  2. Managers or supervisors can assign tasks directly from the inspection report. Team members can then leave comments to discuss issues and progress within the task itself.

  3. Real-time, online visibility of issues reported, tasks assigned, and discussion helps organisations to act quickly and resolve issues faster than tedious pen-and-paper inspection methods. Closing corrective actions faster helps to minimise any negative impact on the quality or safety of their care.

Digitalising incident reporting for CQC compliance

The Health and Safety (H&S) team that handles incidents in their organisation are responsible for reporting to the CQC any incidents involving:

  1. Abuse or allegations of abuse
  2. Serious injuries
  3. Applications to deprive a person of their liberty
  4. Events that prevent or threaten to prevent the registered person from carrying on an activity safely and to an appropriate standard
  5. Deaths of service users
  6. Incidents reported to or investigated by the police 
  7. Unauthorised absences

It’s important for organisations to make sure their staff reports all hazards and incidents so that the H&S team is notified and can report any relevant incidents to the CQC. 

With our incident reporting and management software, the H&S team can fully control the incident reporting process to ensure compliance with the CQC.

  1. Incident reporting made easy
    Staff can easily report incidents, accidents, and other events from their mobile device or our web application.

  1. Collect all relevant information
    Our software allows organisations to customise their incident reporting forms and incident records with custom fields to meet their specific needs.

  2. Complete corrective actions faster
    Create and assign follow-up actions after an incident has been reported. Using our mobile or web app, employees can see what they need to do and when work is due, and managers can easily track follow-up actions without getting lost in long email threads.

  3. Prevent incidents
    With customisable dashboards and the ability to analyse and share incident reports, the H&S team can easily spot trends and identify areas for improving the quality of care.

Streamline inspections and incident reporting for quality care

Besides helping organisations close corrective actions faster to deliver safe and effective patient care, digitalising the inspections and incident reporting process makes staff more productive. 

Staff no longer have to manage emails, spreadsheets, paperwork, or communication across multiple platforms, which can hinder quality care or delay corrective actions. They will also be more productive in focusing on what matters the most — delivering safe, effective, caring, and responsive quality care for their patients. 

To learn more about how our solutions can help your health or social organisation raise the quality of your care, click here to connect with and talk to our sales team.

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