New freedoms for CQC to prevent repeat of past political interference
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, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt 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: 'Today I can announce a major reform that will stop politicians ever attempting to suppress or cover up poor care again.
As soon as Parliament returns we will legislate to give the quality watchdog the statutory independence it so badly lacked under Labour. This means never again can Ministers or political advisors lean on them to suppress uncomfortable truths, and never again will care failings be covered-up by managers dancing to their political masters' tune. We will also put the new Chief Inspector posts in statute, so that patients will always have powerful advocates to speak up for them without fear or favour.
For the hundreds of families who suffered under a system that put political priorities first, we are determined to end the culture of poodle regulation, cover ups, and closing ranks when whistle-blowers and relatives try to speak up.'
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 Government will move 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 writes up its findings. The government also proposes to insert the Chief Inspectors of Hospitals, Adult Social Care and General Practice as statutory positions in 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 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.