Mark Linggood, Product Manager at Datix

(HealthTech Wire / Opinion by Mark Linggood, Product Manager, Datix)

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) introduces its new Fundamental Standards in April 2015. Ultimately all healthcare providers will be assessed against these standards to establish their level of compliance against specific criteria and the results published. As the regulator of health and adult social care in England, the CQC is responsible for making sure that the care people receive meets fundamental standards of quality and safety and it encourages ongoing improvements by those who provide care. For these reasons alone it is time to take notice of the new standards and the five new inspection domains which accompany them. 

The Fundamental Standards are those standards which should always be maintained in terms of care for individuals. They form part of the changes to the law recommended by Sir Robert Francis following his inquiry into care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The standards cover:

  • Person-centred care
  • Dignity and respect
  • Consent
  • Safety
  • Safeguarding from abuse
  • Food and drink
  • Premises and equipment
  • Complaints
  • Good governance
  • Staffing
  • Fit and proper staff
  • Duty of candour

What’s new?

The CQC has introduced five new inspection domains which are easier to understand and the associated rating has been simplified to Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate.  This new rating system can be clearly understood by staff, the general public and commissioning organisations, helping all concerned to make the relevant healthcare decisions.

The five new CQC inspection domains that form its key lines of enquiry when visiting an organisation are:

  • Are they safe?
  • Are they effective?
  • Are they caring?
  • Are they responsive to people’s needs?
  • Are they well-led?

While inspections have always played a major part in the regulatory process, now even more emphasis will be placed on observation and interviews on-site. 

Assessors and inspectors have previously reviewed information on each healthcare organisation including that from patient and public representative groups and from organisations such as other regulators and the former National Patient Safety Agency. In the future, they will gather all data held in the public domain including, for example, newspaper cuttings.  In addition, proof of compliance will be required, such as incident reports, schedules, staff rotas and many more sources of data, preferably updated in real-time.

Three steps to clarify compliance

CQC compliance shouldn’t be seen as a negative chore. It is more to do with the continuous delivery of an outstanding quality of care. Having easy access to the evidence necessary for inspections provides a consistent view of compliance across the entire organisation and allows staff to drive improvements for the good of patients and social care residents, not solely for CQC purposes. Here are three ways to provide the required evidence and improve standards:

  • Invest in a monitoring tool to gather and collate real-time data, therefore demonstrating the status of the organisation against the five domains at all times. This helps to show the level of importance placed on quality and care by the organisation and will help operational leaders sleep at night.
  • Get your ducks in a row by organising evidence in a document library, such as that in the Datix CQC Standards module. This will also make it clear to inspectors that the process is being taken seriously and used internally to maintain standards and aid communication.
  • Adopt a well-organised, proactive approach to help embed ownership, responsibility and accountability for compliance, safety, care and management. An easily accessed monitoring solution will have far more influence than an email or spreadsheet. 

At the heart of every healthcare organisation is the desire to deliver safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led care and for that reason it is time to take notice of the CQC’s new Fundamental Standards and associated inspection domains, to stay one step ahead to prove compliance. The outcome will be that the public gets the safe, high quality care and service it deserves and healthcare commissioners will get the best possible overview of every hospital, care home, clinic, GP practice and numerous other services across the country.

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