Hospitals: Inspections

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 8 September 2023.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Independent, Solihull

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of unannounced hospital inspections by the Care Quality Commission.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carries out a range of inspections in National Health Service trusts, ranging from full comprehensive inspections to more targeted inspections of specific concerns or services. A comprehensive inspection is when CQC inspects all core services followed by an inspection of how well-led a provider is. Due to its size, the visit is announced, and will usually last between one and four days.

A comprehensive inspection is then followed up with an unannounced visit(s). This may be during the day or out of normal working hours and will often involve a smaller inspection team. The inspection team may re-visit areas CQC has already inspected. As with other inspections, at the start of the visit, the team will meet with the provider’s senior operations lead on duty at the time and CQC will feed back if there are any immediate safety concerns.

Other inspections include an unannounced focused inspection when CQC needs to respond to information about a specific concern or to follow up on the findings of a previous inspection. Focused inspections may also happen when CQC has taken enforcement action. Over 80% of hospital inspections are unannounced. Unannounced inspections allow the inspection team to observe the service and receive feedback from patients and staff on normal day of business. The inspection team would usually also include an out of hours inspection element where appropriate.

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