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Changes to the adult social care services assessment framework. Strong leaders needed!

A new regulatory approach: upcoming changes to the assessment framework for adult social care services and the importance of strong leadership

This article first appeared in Care Home Professional, April 2017

The Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) are implementing a new assessment framework for adult social care services. The new assessment criteria are due to be released shortly and the new framework is due to be implemented from July 2017 onwards.

Adult social care providers will need to familiarise themselves with the new assessment criteria before the changes come into force.

The changes to the assessment process follow concerns that there is a high level of variability between providers in terms of quality and concerns about the sustainability of the market generally. A recent report found that many providers are struggling to make improvements and achieve higher standards of care after inspections by the CQC providing feedback on their performance. The report found that almost a quarter of the adult social care providers rated as ‘inadequate’ were not able to make improvements by the point of re-inspection and almost half of the providers rated as ‘requiring improvement’ showed no change in rating on re-inspection.

The outcome of this report, coupled with concerns about wide variation in quality within the sector, has prompted the CQC to revisit its approach to regulatory action. The CQC has identified a new assessment framework and the changes will be implemented later this year over a phased period.

The new assessment framework is designed to encourage improvement and identify clearer ways for the CQC to assess quality. It is also intended to make it easier for providers to identify the standards they need to meet to achieve a good quality rating.

The changes will simplify the assessment process. The CQC will replace the 11 existing handbooks with 2 handbooks (one for adult social care and one for healthcare). The new handbooks are designed to make the assessment process more transparent, although there is likely to be some uncertainty at the outset about how the content is interpreted. Providers should seek specialist advice where required.

Providers should also take note that the new regulatory approach comes with a renewed focus on holding senior management teams to account. This is in line with the CQC’s Strategy for 2016 to 2021 which highlights the importance of strong leadership within the adult social care market. The CQC has identified that strong leadership has an important bearing on quality in terms of the culture it sets and the policies & procedures that are put in place. The CQC want to reinforce this link and one of the key questions for assessments under the new framework will be whether the organisation is “well led”. Senior management teams should, therefore, expect an increased focus on their performance during inspections and greater accountability. The CQC will be looking for senior management teams to take responsibility for the quality of the services being delivered and they may introduce incentives for providers who can demonstrate strong leadership.

Providers would be well advised to review their policies and make sure their business model identifies a clear strategy for achieving high-quality care, as well as recognising the need for continuous improvement, before these changes come into force.

Rachel Brown is Senior Associate at Druces LLP.

r.brown@druces.com

 

 

 

 

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