An influential parliamentary committee has slammed the health watchdog which monitors dentists claiming it is ‘poorly governed and led’.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has focused on administration while neglecting to inspect the level of care, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee concluded.
Formed in 2009 by merging the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission, the CQC regulates more than 21,000 care providers against 16 ‘essential standards’ of quality and safety, through registration, inspection and, where necessary, enforcement action.
But the report raised concerns inspectors were not able to properly assess care standards given each inspector had such a varied portfolio covering hospitals, care homes and dentists.
The report by MPs said: ‘We received evidence that inspectors have not been given enough training and support to understand fully what constitutes good quality care in sectors where they have no experience.’
In evidence to the committee, former CQC head Cynthia Bower defended criticisms made of the organisation saying: ‘I would argue that we have been in the process of deciding how we are going to regulate this incredibly complex system, much of which has never been regulated before.
No one has regulated general practice. No one has regulated dentists.’
Ms Bower said: ‘We began the process of regulating dentists against the new system on 1 April last year. We already have evidence about compliance action that we have taken against dentists. We have evidence about inspections and how they have progressed in terms of looking at dentists’ services. I would say that after a year we would be able to demonstrate the action that we are
taking in relation to dental practices.’
The report also revealed that the CQC is currently dealing with several dentists who have refused to register with them.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: ‘The CQC plays an absolutely vital role in protecting people from poor quality or unsafe care, but it has failed to perform that role effectively.
‘It has clearly been struggling for some time and the Department of Health, which is ultimately responsible, has not had a grip on what the Commission has been doing.’
The MPs said the NHS regulator should not be allowed to take on new responsibilities planned under the government’s health reforms, as the CQC was ‘poorly governed and led’ and nor was it ready to take on the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Peter Walsh, of the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, told MPs: ‘We don’t think the CQC is fully fit for purpose at the moment. It has an unwillingness to act proactively to protect patients or service users.’