Joint statement on our regulatory approach during the coronavirus pandemic

Published: 30 April 2020 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

Today our chief inspectors issued a joint statement setting out our approach to regulation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

The nation is facing a major health crisis that has required all health and care bodies, including CQC, to work in very different ways, and we continue to do so.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic our regulatory role and core purpose to keep people safe has been at the heart of all decisions we have made. Our regulatory role has not changed, and we continue to ensure that health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care.

We are aware that during this period of intense challenge and changes to how care is delivered, there are increased risks to people, both to those with coronavirus and those without it, whose treatment and care is being directly or indirectly affected.

To enable us to identify these risks and respond by taking appropriate action to keep people safe, we have developed an Emergency Support Framework. This underpins our regulatory approach during the coronavirus pandemic. We will start to roll out this approach from 4 May, sector by sector. The Emergency Support Framework helps us deliver our purpose and has been designed to be flexible to allow us to respond to the changing needs of the health and social care system during this time. This approach will involve:

  • Using and sharing information to target support where it’s needed most. This will be from new and existing sources, including information providers share with us through notifications, and increasing our efforts nationally and locally to encourage feedback from the public and care staff, as well as whistleblowers. This information will inform our view of risk, help us to make informed decisions and support the wider health and social care system to respond to issues at local, regional and national levels.
  • Having open and honest conversations with providers, health and care staff, partners and wider stakeholders such as local authorities, and using this information so we can support them to resolve issues, mitigate and manage risks and work through tough decisions to help them keep people and the system safe.
  • Taking action to keep people safe and to protect people’s human rights by using our powers to take action where we find unsafe or poor care.
  • Capturing and sharing what we do and how we do it, so we are transparent about the action we have taken, and to inform how we approach the recovery phase of the pandemic, as well as learning for the future.

We expect services to continue to do everything in their power to keep people safe. We will continue to regulate services in a variety of ways so that we can identify where support is needed and, on some occasions, an inspection. We will continue to inspect where we see evidence of risk of harm, deliberate abuse, systematic neglect or a significant breakdown in leadership. We will use our powers, or work with the relevant system partners, to take action against those responsible where we find unsafe or poor care.

Each sector that we regulate will be affected by the pandemic in very different ways. Therefore, we will adapt our approach, and any regulatory actions, to the different needs of people who use services and providers in each sector – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Guidance will be available on our website to support you and to describe what this new approach looks like in practice. As the situation evolves, we will make sure that we regularly update the guidance for each sector.

We have a unique oversight of the care provided for people who use adult social care, mental health services and services for people with physical and learning disabilities, who are often made more vulnerable by their circumstances and because of the nature of the care they need. Using this oversight, our inspectors will continue to ensure that people are safe, and their human rights are maintained, while also working to support providers to respond to Care Act easements and emerging issues. We are supporting the system to keep people safe by:

  • working in partnership with Healthwatch England, partners in the voluntary sector and others to increase our efforts to hear people’s feedback about their care
  • using our data to produce and share regular information with local, regional, and national system partners and the Department of Health and Social Care, highlighting key trends and issues to mobilise additional support where needed
  • providing data on death notifications in adult social care services to the Office for National Statistics to inform their weekly updates

For NHS trusts and primary medical services, we are working in partnership with NHS England/Improvement (NHSE/I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). This will ensure that our activity is coordinated and that everything we do supports health and social care systems to keep people safe and to protect their human rights - we are also supporting the adult social care sector to be involved in these conversations. We will use our data to produce and share regular information with NHSE/I and DHSC to highlight key trends and themes. We will escalate the information we gather regionally (through NHSE/I incident centres) and nationally to support our own decision making, and the decisions of NHSE/I and DHSC regarding resource planning and targeted actions to keep people safe.

We also want to take this opportunity to highlight new guidance from NHSE/I on infection control. This guidance will be helpful in the prevention of cross infection that can support the successful re-establishment of services for patients who do not have coronavirus.

For independent healthcare providers that are not part of the NHS partnership agreement, there is less national oversight, so potentially increased risk. We will continue to regulate this sector and provide clear, relevant guidance and communication and will take action when we have concerns to minimise risks to people using these services.

More than ever, it is vital that we hear people’s feedback about care as it will help us to ensure that the people who use services are kept safe. We are increasing our efforts to hear about people’s experiences. We want to hear from everyone, whether you’re using services or working in them. We encourage people to use our Give feedback on care service to share their experiences of care and individual services – good or bad.

Above all, we would like to thank you for you continued commitment and effort to tackling coronavirus.

Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals
Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care
Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care