Our updated approach to regulating independent healthcare services

Published: 28 June 2018 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

Earlier this year we sought your views on proposals to update our approach to regulating independent healthcare services in England.

This included plans for how we would introduce quality ratings following our inspections of those independent healthcare services that the Department of Health and Social Care gave us additional powers to rate in January 2018. It also covered plans to evolve our regulation of independent healthcare services to ensure a consistent approach across all sectors.

Following feedback from members of the public, independent healthcare providers and other stakeholders we have published updated guidance for providers, which confirms our approach, alongside a summary of responses to the consultation.

The guidance sets out how we will begin rating those independent healthcare services that we have new powers to rate, such as independent ambulance services, independent substance misuse services and cosmetic surgery services.

Following inspection, ratings will be awarded for whether these services are safe, effective, responsive, caring and well-led at overall service and location level, using the same ratings principles used for all other services.

The guidance also confirms that as part of the changes we are making to evolve our approach, we will:

  • Introduce ‘CQC Insight’– a data monitoring tool currently in use for NHS hospital trusts and primary care providers – for independent healthcare services, starting with mental health and acute services.
  • Strengthen our relationship management with providers and with local and national stakeholders as we adopt a more intelligence-driven model of regulation informed by ongoing monitoring of the quality and safety of care.
  • Move towards unannounced inspections and introduce maximum re-inspection intervals based on location ratings.
  • Assess and rate ‘outpatients’ and ‘diagnostic imaging’ services separately to better reflect the way these services are organised and managed at many independent hospitals.
  • Over time, we will develop a digital routine provider information request to further improve our ability to monitor services.

We will implement these changes in a phased approach from July 2018.

We will also be producing separate updated provider guidance for Independent doctors and clinics providing acute and primary care, including online prior to beginning to rate these services in April 2019.

We ran the consultation between January and March this year. People could tell us their views through an online survey or at consultation events. We received a total of 263 responses during the consultation period. We also held 13 consultation events with providers, stakeholder organisations and members of the public.