The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has 'much to do' to earn public confidence, the Health Select Committee has warned.
Launching a report from the second annual accountability hearing held with the regulator (HC 592), the Committee said it did not believe the CQC has succeeded in its focus to ensure that its inspections provide assurance in acceptable standards of patient safety.
It recommended the CQC undertakes a consultation to define a regulatory method and how inspectors behave when working with care providers.
It went on to recommend that the CQC needs to be more diligent about communicating the prompt, accurate and complete outcomes of its inspections directly, operators, residents and relatives, as well as to public sector commissioners. No-one who relies upon a service should be expected to scour the CQC website for inspection results, or chance upon them in a local newspaper report.
The Committee welcomed the CQCs decision to strengthen its inspection process by including expert clinical advisers but remains concerned that such expertise is not always available when necessary - some 87% of inspections carried out since this resource became available did not use it. The regulator needs to develop a consistent methodology for Inspectors to follow that will ensure clinical experts are available when required, the Committee conclueded.
Committee chair Stephen Dorrell MP said: 'The CQC needs to ensure that its inspections represent a challenging process which is designed to find service shortcomings where they exist, ensure, when appropriate that service providers address them rapidly, and report promptly both to providers and users of the service. The CQC also needs to show that it treats feedback from the public as free intelligence and that it acts swiftly when serious complaints are brought to light this way.
The essential standards applied by the CQC should reflect a current understanding of good clinical practice. An inspection should be much more that a review of facilities and records. It should include an assessment of the quality of the professional culture within the organistion.'
He added: 'Looking ahead to the challenge of GP registration my committee will examine carefully in 2013 the extent to which the CQC has learnt from its experience of dental registration and is able to deliver a streamlined process that limits the burdens placed upon GPs.
The CQC's chief executive David Behan added: 'In our strategic review we consulted widely on a clear statement of our purpose and role. We also set out our intentions to improve how we communicate with the public, make better use of information, and work more effectively as an organisation and with others, including those who provide care.
'We also set out our intentions to tailor the way we regulate different types of organisations based on what has the most impact on driving improvement. We will put people's views at the centre of what we do.
'We have already begun to make some of these changes and will continue this process.
'We have demonstrated through the consultation on the strategy an open and transparent approach. We will ensure that openness and transparency are at the heart of the way we develop. We are focused on protecting and promoting the health, safety and welfare of people who use health and care services.'
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: 'It is significant that the CQC is now giving attention to the importance of staffing levels and highlighting the effects of inadequate staffing on patient care. The RCN has warned for some time that cuts to staffing levels are posing a direct risk to patient safety.
'The CQC can play a vital role in ensuring that organisations support staff in raising concerns without fear of retribution. We look forward to continuing our work with the CQC in this area to make sure staff are fully supported.'