Health and care regulator announces new Emergency Support Framework

CQC on 1 May published details of its Emergency Support Framework setting out how it will work with health and social care providers registered with it during the pandemic, and for a period afterwards. Up until now all routine inspections have been paused.

The CQC make it clear that their ESF is not an inspection – and they will not be rating providers’ performance.

In its announcement, the CQC say the framework has been designed to be flexible to allow them to respond to the changing needs of the health and care system during this time – and the approach will involve four key areas:

  • Safe care and treatment
  • Staffing arrangements
  • Protection from abuse
  • Assurance processes, monitoring and risk management

So, what can care providers and health and care staff expect from the interim approach?

The CQC will be calling to “have open and honest conversations” to help them understand the challenges care providers are facing – and offer support, such as coordinating the testing appointments for staff and on the escalation of supply issues around PPE.

Prioritising services to contact

Services will be risked assessed. So, only services with a higher risk will be called according to the framework.

It says: “If the inspector is confident that there is a lower risk level, they can decide not to call you…A service with a higher risk level will have more contact from their inspector, as we will continue to monitor and engage with you until the emergency period is over.”

Recording information

Inspectors will make a note of the details of the discussion around the four key areas but as the conversation is not a regulatory process the CQC will not make an audio recording of the calls.

Providers can then expect to receive an email with a summary of the conversation identifying whether the service is ‘managing’ or ‘needs’ support.  The CQC point out that this emergency process is not an inspection, and the summary record is not an inspection report – and, as such, there is no rating. Note that the usual steps, such as the factual accuracy process do not apply here. So, providers would not have a right of reply in such circumstances.  

Inspections and enforcement

If the CQC decide to inspect this means a focused inspection for hospital and primary medical services and a targeted inspection for adult social care services ie a site visit – but quite what is meant by a targeted inspection is unclear. CQC say that in exceptional circumstances, they can still use enforcement processes, and they will follow them when needed.

Do get in touch if you would have any questions about the CQC's ESF.

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