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Driving healthcare transformation

With its new regulatory framework now fully embedded, the Care Quality Commission has promised to work closely with providers to lead and support improvement in healthcare services.

A 'catalyst for change'. That's the way the Care Quality Commission (CQC) describes itself in its Shaping the Future strategy document – good news for health providers and NHS staff struggling with the challenges of an ageing population and increased demands on services. While being focused on its remit of achieving the highest quality care possible across the country, the CQC clearly understands that its role needs to be supportive as well as regulatory. That means doing everything it can to lead, empower and assist in the delivery of the required new models of care.

An encouragement for mental health staff is the recent appointment by the CQC of nine national professional advisors for mental health, bringing a strong clinical perspective to the organisation's inspection regime. The team includes psychiatrists specialising in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), forensic mental health services and old age mental health care. Mental health nursing is also represented by registered mental health nurse Vanessa Ford, Director of Nursing Standards and Governance for West London Mental Health Trust, and Professor Jonathan Warren, Executive Director of Nursing at East London Foundation Trust.

"The appointments of these very senior nurses and doctors and psychologists demonstrate how serious we are about having the necessary expertise in every aspect of the mental health and learning disabilities services that we inspect," commented Dr Paul Lelliott, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

In its State of Care report for 2014-15, the CQC management team acknowledged that the NHS was having to 'cope with increasing pressure' with budgets that 'have been smaller than before'. However, their belief is that delivering higher quality care is not about more money, but about focusing on three key areas: engaging leaders to build a shared ownership of quality and safety; having the right mix of staff with the right skills; and ensuring there is coordination and collaboration between different parts of the system.

Positive moves

A report published in July shows how the CQC has been working in partnership with the Department of Health, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Social Services and Health Education England to ensure that people with learning disabilities and/or autism (with mental illness) get the best care possible in the most appropriate setting.

In November Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the CQC would be investigating the workload, service delivery and overall training experience of junior doctors, as well as the mechanisms they use to report working patterns. 

In October the CQC published Building on Strong Foundations, a discussion paper on the future of health and social care regulation, following on from a survey of providers, the public, professionals, stakeholders and care commissioners. Feedback will continue to shape the content of the organisation's five-year strategy, scheduled for publication in April 2016. 

More than 70% of providers say that CQC inspections give them information that helps them improve their service. With an even greater focus on leading and supporting better models of care, the organisation could be an increasingly positive force in the transformation of our healthcare system.

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