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Health and Adult Social Care (England)

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

Regulation provides an essential safeguard for patients and users of adult social care services. Patients, service users and the public as a whole look to the regulators and managers of the health and adult social care systems to ensure the services they use are safe and of good quality and that the money they pay through taxes is used efficiently and effectively to provide the best possible services.

The interim report for the NHS Next Stage Review described an ambitious vision of high quality care that is safe, effective and personalised for all. Following a public consultation I am today publishing “The Future Regulation of Health and Adult Social Care in England”—response to consultation. The regulatory framework set out here is an essential building block if we are to make delivering safe and good quality of care a fundamental goal of health and adult social care.

This reaffirms the Government’s vision for regulation and reinforces the Government’s commitment to establish an integrated health and adult social care regulator by outlining the roles and responsibilities for the new regulator that will be created by bringing together the existing functions of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the Mental Health Act Commission. The integrated health and adult social care regulator will be called the Care Quality Commission.

The Care Quality Commission will take rapid and appropriate action against any registered organisation that is putting patients or users of services at risk. New powers to enforce the required standards will be introduced to give the regulator the ability to choose the most appropriate action for each case. Actions could include increasing the frequency of inspection, undertaking investigations, issuing warning notices, fining providers or restricting the future actions of providers, for example, by closing services.

If the new regulator believes that the services being provided are sufficiently unsafe, or that there is some other serious breach which is putting service users at risk, the new regulator will have the power to stop a provider from providing that care. The Care Quality Commission will have flexibility about how and when to use the enforcement powers. For the first time decisions as to whether services are good enough and the action that should be taken will be completely independent of Government across both health (including NHS services) and adult social care.

The current regulatory system has worked well but has been hampered by artificial barriers between health and social care. The Care Quality Commission will focus on assuring levels of safety and quality of care across health and adult social care services in England. Coherent assessment, inspection approaches and registration of providers will assure patients and service users that no matter which service they choose, that service will meet common national requirements for safety and quality.

The Care Quality Commission will be an authoritative and independent source of information on how well health and adult social care services are being provided. The performance information they produce will be publicly available and, alongside existing sources of information, for example, the NHS Choices website will help patients and users of services decide how and where they want to be treated.

The Care Quality Commission will work to the Government’s principles of good regulation. It will use information and intelligence (including the views of patients, users of services, carers and staff) to target its finite resources to the areas of greatest risk. The new legislation will allow flexibility so that the scope of regulation can be amended to reflect new models of care and new information on the risk to patients and users of specific services.

The regulatory framework has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.