24 Oct 2007 10:51 AM
Tough new regulator for health and social care

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 24 October 2007

Stronger powers to help tackle Healthcare Associated Infections

A tough new regulator for health and adult social care services will ensure good quality and safe care for the public, Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson said today.

The Care Quality Commission will have a key role in tackling and preventing Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), strengthening the current system of regulation. They will have the power to carry out annual infection control inspections, increase the frequency of checks for hospitals with high rates of HCAIs, and take rapid action to close down wards if necessary, making sure that they are thoroughly cleaned before they can be reopened for patients. They will also be able to issue early warning notices in order to ensure Trusts take swift action when issues arise.

Alan Johnson said:

"Despite progress, tackling infection remains a challenge for the NHS. I am determined that we will take action where necessary to safeguard patients and ensure staff feel able to report concerns.

"The regulator will have tougher powers to inspect and even close wards in order to protect patients and service users. NHS staff, such as matrons, nurses and porters, who spend every day on the wards, need to feel able to report concerns to the new regulator.

"The Care Quality Commission will ensure that all patients receive a safe and quality service, no matter what part of the system they are accessing, and at which point."

The new regulator will focus on safety and quality across health and adult social care services, in both the NHS and the independent sector. It will provide a more consistent approach to regulation at a time when more services are provided between health and social care and will help to reduce administrative burdens on frontline services. It will also be more flexible, to ensure it is fit for the future as services develop and to ensure that it can concentrate resources on the areas of greatest concern.

The Care Quality Commission will also have an important role in supporting patient choice, through assessing and providing information on the performance of providers of adult social care and health care, and in ensuring value for taxpayers' money.

The Care Quality Commission brings together the experience and expertise of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission. Learning from the experiences of the existing regulators we will put in place a wider range of actions that the Care Quality Commission may take to enforce the requirements for becoming and remaining registered to provide healthcare or adult social services. Rather than just bringing problems to the attention of providers and government, the Care Quality Commission will now have a key role in tackling it. It will take rapid and appropriate action against any health and adult social care organisation that is putting patients or service users at risk. The wider range of enforcement options available will include:

- increasing the frequency of inspection, including unannounced spot checks;

- undertaking investigations;

- issuing warning notices;

- fining providers; or

- closing services.

Alan Johnson added:

"I am determined to ensure that the distinct needs of social care are recognised by the new regulatory body, and that it uses and develops the expertise of the Mental Health Act Commission."

The proposals to create the new regulator are included in the Department's response to the consultation 'The future regulation of health and adult social care in England'. The powers of the Care Quality Commission will be included in the new Health and Social Care Bill, due to be introduced in Parliament this year.


Notes to Editors

1. The consultation response can be found at http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Responsestoconsultations/DH_078227

2. The Government will set the high-level requirements that the regulatory body will use to assure the safety and quality of care. The detail of these requirements will be set out in regulations and subject to a further consultation.

3. The Care Quality Commission will regulate health and adult social care services; children's social care services are regulated by Ofsted.


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