Last month, the DH published a review on the future capability of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care services in England.
Set up in April 2009, the CQC has done some good work, publishing an annual report on how people are treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 (previously biennial). It has also registered more than 18,000 care homes and undertaken at least 14,000 compliance inspections and reviews.
But the CQC has failed to halt instances of poor care, such as the appalling scenes witnessed at Winterbourne View, where staff physically and verbally abused patients. One quality commitment is that everyone has a right 'to be cared for by staff with the right skills and support to do their jobs properly'. This isn't the case at present.
The responsibility to comply with essential standards of safety and quality is not the CQC's, but lies with the provider organisation. So how do we ensure frontline staff have skills around safeguarding and risk? You can set the most stringent and comprehensive monitoring framework but ultimately it is the training and culture of front-line staff that determines quality of care.
The Mental Health Foundation would like to see more training on mental health issues for all health professionals, not just those working in mental health services. A recent report by The King's Fund and Centre for Mental Health estimated that more than four million people in England with a long-term physical illness also suffer poor mental health; about 40% of people with a learning disability experience mental health problems. Yet many nurses do not get the training to recognise comorbidity, or identify patients' mental health needs.
Financial constraints and uncertainty about NHS reforms are stretching services to their limit. But unless we secure better mental health training across all health professionals, vulnerable people with complex needs will not receive the care and support they need.
Simon Lawton Smith, head of policy, Mental Health Foundation