In denial about fairness?
By Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson
Social care providers are indebted to Health Ltd (SSP), a service provider operating GP practices in England, which won a judicial review in the High Court against the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July. The case concerned the fairness of the CQC’s complaints procedure and this should ring a bell for social care providers.
I was taken aback by the tenor of the regulator’s response to Mrs Justice Andrews’ ruling that it was “unfair for the CQC to maintain their original finding without making appropriate enquiries”. In a press release – http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/judge-finds-rating-review-process-fair-factual-accuracy-improved – the CQC maintains that “Mrs Justice Andrews does not find that CQC’s rating review process is unfair, nor that it was applied unfairly in this case.”
This is somewhat at odds with the judge’s comment that: “ . . . procedural fairness required the CQC to undertake a review of its response to the proposed factual corrections . . . There is little point in giving someone an opportunity to make factual corrections, if there is no procedural mechanism for safeguarding against an unfair refusal to make them.”
This is a nice point: it would seem that the judge did not find the CQC’s appeals process to be unfair, but concluded that the CQC had acted unfairly in refusing to make factual corrections.
The tone of CQC’s press release is one of complacent denial but the regulator does give the undertaking that “All factual accuracy responses will be reviewed by another member of the Commission’s staff from the relevant Inspection Directorate. This staff member will be independent of the original inspection visit”.
All well and good, but it means that the regulator will still be policing itself – it is little more than a tacit assurance that they will refine their appeals system to make it even more unchallengeable.
This case also begs the question of why it was left to a small private healthcare provider to bring this to judicial review. Shouldn’t this be the job of representative bodies? Especially given that the judge said it was a “disproportionate burden” to expect the inspected party to bring a legal claim in the courts? Would it not make more sense for a representative body to go to judicial review to establish a legal principle for the benefit of all its members?
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.