Encouraging improvement and protecting people at a time of change: CQC launches new five year strategy

Published: 24 May 2016 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) today publishes its strategy for 2016 to 2021, setting out an ambitious vision for a more targeted, responsive and collaborative approach to regulation so more people get high quality care.

It describes how CQC will combine learning from 22,000 comprehensive inspections with better use of intelligence from the public, providers and partners in order to focus inspections more tightly than ever to where people may be at risk of poor care.

Against a context of increasing care needs combined with financial pressure, services are changing the way they organise and deliver care – and CQC’s approach is evolving to reflect these changes. The new strategy will help encourage services to innovate and collaborate in order to drive improvement, while ensuring that people continue to receive good, safe care – which, in a time of tighter public finances, will be more crucial than ever.

Shaping the future describes how CQC will build on the strong foundations of its current approach, using the unique picture of quality and in-depth understanding of the sectors it regulates gained from its first round of comprehensive inspections. The strategy was developed following a year-long consultation period during which thousands of people, providers, staff and partners shared their views about the future of regulation.

One of the key developments to CQC’s approach will be the improved use of information from the public, providers, other regulators and oversight bodies in order to target resources more effectively to where risk to the quality of care provided is greatest, or to where quality is likely to have changed. In practice, this will mean more use of targeted unannounced inspections, based on information that is constantly updated – for example, if there is a sudden spike in people reporting poor care from a particular service. It would also mean longer intervals between inspections for services rated good or outstanding if they can continue to demonstrate that they are providing good care.

CQC’s Chief Executive, David Behan, said: "We’re developing our approach to reflect changes in the sectors we regulate – effective regulation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. But our role remains the same: consistently assessing quality of care using the information we and others gather; using what we know to help drive change and improvement; and acting swiftly to ensure people are protected from poor care.

"Inspection will always be crucial to our understanding of quality but we’ll increasingly be getting more and better information from the public and providers and using it alongside inspections to provide a trusted, responsive, independent view of quality that is regularly updated and that will be invaluable to people who provide services as well as those who use them.

"And we’ll make more use of focused unannounced inspections which target the areas where our insight suggests risk is greatest or quality is improving – with ratings updated where we find changes.

"We’ll also do more to help providers to monitor and report on their own quality; work with national and local partners to formalise the definition of quality and agree how we should measure it; and develop a shared data set so providers are only asked for information once. This will make it easier for health and care services to know what is expected of them and to report on it - and easier for people to know what to expect from their care.

"In an environment of pressure and change, we’ll continue to support the system to improve - and take action to protect people where necessary. We know our work is already leading to improved services and better care. Now we’re building on this work and moving forward, to ensure that more people get good care, more of the time – because that’s what everyone wants."

CQC’s Chair, Peter Wyman, said: "Over the next five years the health and social care sector will need to adapt, and we do not underestimate the challenges that services face. Demand for care has increased as more people live for longer with complex care needs, and there is strong pressure on services to control costs. Success will mean delivering the right quality outcomes within the resources available.

"As an organisation, CQC will be costing less – reducing our budget by £32 million over the next four years, while ensuring that our focus on the safety and welfare of people who use services is never compromised.

"We’ll do this by working smarter and faster – for example by using new technology and data to make better use of what people tell us, so that we can use the most up-to-date information to help spot when people might be at risk of poor care. We will improve the processes that underpin our inspections so we can report what we find more quickly. And we’ll be working closely with partners to ensure a more joined-approach that works better for the public and reduces the burden of regulation for providers.

"Health and social care regulation makes a real and practical difference to people’s lives - there needs to be a strong, independent regulator who will always act on the side of people who use services. Our new strategy describes how we will build on what we have learned so we can continue to improve what we do into the future."

Shaping the future sets out four priorities for CQC over the next five years:

Encourage improvement, innovation and sustainability in care – we will work with others to support improvement, adapt our approach as new care models develop, and publish new ratings of NHS trusts’ and foundation trusts’ use of resources.

Deliver an intelligence-driven approach to regulation – we will use our information from the public and providers more effectively to target our resources where the risk to the quality of care provided is greatest and to check where quality is improving, and we will introduce a more proportionate approach to registration.

Promote a single shared view of quality – we will work with others to agree a consistent approach to defining and measuring quality, collecting information from providers, and delivering a single vision of high-quality care.

Improve our efficiency and effectiveness – we will work more efficiently, achieving savings each year, and improving how we work with the public and providers.


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Health and social care regulation makes a real and practical difference to people’s lives - there needs to be a strong, independent regulator who will always act on the side of people who use services.

Peter Wyman, CQC Chair

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.