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14 September 2011
Patients and residents are being put at risk because hospitals and care homes are only being inspected every two years, according to a government Health Select Committee report today.
In the six months from October 2010 to March 2011, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected 70% fewer hospitals, clinics and care homes than in the previous six months - the reason being that resources were redirected to a new GP registration scheme.
The committee admitted that unrealistic expectations had been placed on the CQC, but warned, all the same, that it had taken its "eye off the ball".
Future inspections will now be carried out annually and the select committee is calling for the CQC to assess whether whistleblowers are protected or punished by the employers. In addition, it wants the CQC to help change the culture within the NHS.
The committee also criticised the CQC's "lack of urgency" in recruiting new inspectors, even though many of the critical posts had long-standing vacancies.
Commenting on the report, Age UK's Charity Director, Michelle Mitchell, said: "It's worrying to see a huge drop in the number of inspections, however effective monitoring can only be done with sufficient funding - something the CQC does not have at present.
"We would like to see yearly inspections to guarantee quality of care for many older people in hospitals and care homes across the country and a commitment from Government to ensure the regulator is fully resourced to do so.
"The care of the most vulnerable in our society is one of the most important issues facing the country and too important to cast aside and be labelled as 'too costly or difficult'.
"We need the Government to show leadership and make the difficult but vital decisions to reform our broken care system and lift the fear out of later life - we owe that to older people now and generations to come."