Call for CQC to bring back quality ratings

Posted on March 13th, by geoff in Caring Times, Caring Times head. No Comments

Caring Times, March 2013

Reintroducing ratings to regulated care services would benefit the public as well as health and social care providers and commissioners, is the major finding of a joint discussion paper issued in January by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) and the National Care Forum (NCF).

The report, Information is power: why ratings of care services need to return, outlines inadequacies in how people choose and analyse care, and urges a way forward. It argues that, in an increasingly complex care quality environment, a plethora of different policy initiatives and agencies, are developing their own approaches to information about quality, making the task of choosing care services very challenging.

Social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), scrapped the old ‘star ratings’, also known as quality ratings, in 2010. Since then, says the report, the numerous options open to the public and lack of sufficient practical and standard data means there is no consistent information covering 12,500 providers operating in more than 25,000 locations.

“People need a simple, accessible system to make informed decisions,” said NCF executive director Des Kelly.

“Choice of care home is difficult to change and many residents are self-funders. Anyone choosing a care home or care services for themselves or a loved one faces an uphill struggle. If individuals are to make effective choices, the care sector needs to offer better benchmarking information.”

Mr Kelly said the scheme could be launched in the care sector before the health service as the methodology for rating a large complex hospital providing a range of treatments would be much more complicated than that for a care home, and historically, ratings had been welcomed by the care sector.

Mr Kelly told Caring Times that, should the regulator reassume a ratings function, this would in no way conflict with the Your Care Rating surveys, recently piloted by private providers.

“The two schemes would sit comfortably together,” said Mr Kelly.

“There would be the dual benefit of of residents’ subjective experience, along with an objective evaluation by CQC.”

The report, authored by social care expert David Walden, follows health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to ask the Nuffield Trust to conduct a review of ratings. The paper says the CQC should take on such a ratings scheme.

While acknowledging that the regulator’s challenges are well-documented, the report points out that CQC has experience of awarding ratings and handing it responsibility for rating services would minimise bureaucracy.

VODG general secretary John Adams said the discussion paper clarified the benefits of ratings to the sector as well as to the public.

“Providers can use ratings in promotional material and commissioners can use them to drive improvement,” said Mr Adams.

“Let us not ignore the obvious, logical and cost-effective ‘quick win’ in adult social care if the regulator reprises its responsibility for ratings in regulated care. We hope the ratings review currently underway will take this paper’s arguments very seriously.” The Nuffield Trust is expected to present its findings to government in March.

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