What do the CQC's temporary changes mean for health care providers?
A brief overview of temporary changes in the CQC's administration in these unprecedented times.
The impact of the global outbreak of Covid-19, is affecting many people across the world in a multitude of ways. This article briefly covers how the rather regimented Care Quality Commission in England is adapting to the challenges it brings.
The CQC's guidance on its website aims to reassure health care providers that, in line with other Government policies, it aims to "support [them] and to keep people safe". It goes on to confirm that correspondence should not be sent to the CQC by post, as its staff are working from home and they will seek to communicate remotely (by email and/or phone), which reflects a pragmatic change as some forms of communication would traditionally be communicated by post. It also serves as a reminder for health care providers to ensure it has access to online CQC portals/emails and to consider whether any urgent post should be sent via an alternative method to ensure speedy receipt (post is being temporarily monitored for previous correspondence).
The following measures have been confirmed (last updated on 26 March 2020):
- Inspections – since 16 March 2020, the CQC has suspended routine inspections of care providers, however the CQC still has the power to conduct a visit if they suspect any risk of harm or abuse, but they intend to speak with providers before a physical inspection takes place.
- Covid-19 registration opportunities – in response to the ongoing efforts to increase capacity and contribute to the control of the outbreak of Covid-19 and/or the treatment of people who have contracted the illness, the CQC has introduced a streamlined process for Covid-19 registrations. This opens up new opportunities for health care providers. The separate "Covid-19 registration framework" covers both new registrations and changes to existing services. In urgent cases, for example to increase existing capacity, the CQC has the power to assess your application at the same time as providers are making the changes.
Registration applications should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and should include ‘COVID-19’ in the email so it is prioritised. If the changes you are making do not require a registration, visit the CQC's website to notify them about changes to your statement of purpose.
- Staffing – if a member of staff is concerned that they have Covid-19, they should follow the NHS guidance and, if necessary, self isolate at home until is it safe to care for individuals. As part of the government's emergency legislative measures, it has also announced financial support for certain employees who are on sick leave. For specific employment advice, please contact Nicola Ihnatowicz (email: NIhnatowicz@trowers.com or tel: +44 (0)20 7423 8565), in our employment team who can assist further.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that free distribution of fluid repellent facemasks has started. Each care home and home care provider is due to receive at least 300 facemasks and other protective equipment thereafter. Whilst service providers are not required to take any action to register for PPE, there is a dedicated line for the health and social care sector. You can call on 0800 915 9964 or email email@example.com.
- Resident with Covid-19 symptoms – whilst care homes are not expected to have dedicated isolation facilities, it is recommended that homes should implement precautions where someone in the home displays symptoms of Covid-19 (including isolation in their rooms, reviewing visitation policies and limiting visitors, all staff should continue to follow strict hygiene rules and PPE should be used where staff are required to get into close contact with residents). Care homes can seek additional advice from their local Public Health England health protection teams. Testing of residents may be organised if care homes have several cases at a time.
- Notification of Covid-19 – there is no requirement to notify the CQC of individual cases of Covid-19, however, notification via completing a notification form, is required where, as a result of individuals contracting Covid-19, there is a risk to the day-to-day operations of the service.
- Sharing resources – service providers are advised to work with local authorities to establish plans for mutual aid, including sharing of the workforce between providers, with local primary and community health services providers, and with deployment of volunteers where that is safe to do so.
- Dental care – routine dental check-ups for service users are generally suspended until further notice, however, in the case of any emergencies, dental services are available.
- Complaints and complainants – the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman published high level advice on how to manage complaints and complainants, and the impact on ongoing investigations, during this time. They have temporarily suspended the complaints submission procedure, and during this uncertain time, their message to providers is, unless guidance provides otherwise, to continue to follow recent advice, processes and procedures and only to deviate if there is a good reason to do so. Management of deadlines and expectations is key, as many complaints are made worse by poor management.