The health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, is to be given greater independence to ensure it can act fearlessly as the nation’s chief whistleblower on health, Jeremy Hunt Health Secretary announced today.
Under the proposals, the Health Secretary will relinquish a range of powers to intervene in the operational decisions of the CQC. This means that the CQC will no longer need to ask for Secretary of State approval to carry out an investigation into a hospital or care home. It will also remove the Secretary of State’s power to direct CQC on the content of its annual report.
In addition, the newly created positions of Chief Inspector of Hospitals, General Practice and Adult Social Care, will be enshrined in law. This will place the positions on a permanent footing and ensure that individuals who are appointed to the roles are able to speak up for patients without fear of political interference.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
The Chief Inspector must be the nation’s whistleblower in chief. We will legislate in the Care Bill to give the CQC statutory independence, rather like the Bank of England has over interest rates. The welfare of patients is too important for political meddling and our new legislation will make sure Ministers always put patients first.
The government proposes to make these amendments to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 that established CQC, via the Care Bill, as it passes through the House of Lords in October.
Under the proposals, the House of Lords will consider whether to amend the Health and Social Care Act 2008, to remove the Secretary of State’s powers to dictate which organisations the CQC should inspect, how it should carry out inspections and how it will write up its findings in a report.
The government also proposes to insert the posts of Chief Inspectors of Hospitals, Adult Social Care and General Practice into the Act.
Professor Sir Mike Richards was appointed as Chief Inspector of Hospitals in May, Andrea Sutcliffe was appointed as Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care in July and Professor Steve Field was appointed as Chief Inspector of General Practice in August.
They will lead CQC’s inspections and regulate providers of health or social care services across the public, private and independent sectors. It is also their job to ensure those services are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and that they are well led.