Annual accountability hearing with the Care Quality Commission - Health Committee Contents

5  Provision of information to the public

Information on adult social care providers

79.  The CQC also plays a role in helping the public to choose between providers by giving them access to the information it holds on providers and, specifically, the results of its reviews and inspections. Following our pre-appointment hearing with Dame Jo Williams the Committee noted its concerns regarding the quality and accessibility of this information, in particular that regarding adult social care providers. In September 2010, Dame Jo had told us that:

One of the most important things that we can contribute is information on our findings that is understandable so that people can use it to make really informed choices. Translating some of the mechanisms that we are building—such as our quality and risk profile—into a usable set of messages for individuals in a local community is one of the things that we are looking at very carefully. You will know that our predecessor organisation had a star rating for providers of social care.[106] We are currently consulting on what might be the most appropriate system for the future and anticipate that that will be concluded this year, with the new system probably starting next May.[107]

80.  This has not been the case. The promised successor to the star rating system (see 'The Excellence Award', below) is currently being consulted upon and is not intended to be in place until April 2012, while the 'user-friendly provider profiles' setting out more of the data CQC holds on each provider[108] have been put back from January 2011,[109] to summer,[110] and then again to autumn 2011.[111]

81.  The CQC website now offers a searchable 'Care Directory', with information on each provider, but the information that is available is limited and often out of date. The CQC acknowledged these limitations in its annual report.[112] Entries for typical adult social care providers currently show their last star rating (in line with legislation, the CQC stopped awarding star ratings in July 2010, so even the most recent star ratings are over a year old) and past inspectors' reports (which may also be several years old). The only information relating to the CQC's current system is a statement that the provider has been registered and licensed against CQC standards of quality and service. The charity Action on Elder Abuse noted that this could be misleading:

The new system of registering social care providers [...] did not test compliance other than by self declaration. The process therefore gave a false sense of reassurance as it could only confirm a provider's assertion of compliance.[113]

82.  Amanda Sherlock, Director of Operations Deliver at the CQC, told us that as of 5 July a statement would appear on a provider's entry if they were under review by the CQC.[114]

83.  The paucity of information and, in particular, the delay in developing a successor to the system of star ratings, has been subject to criticism. The English Community Care Association accused the CQC of a 'singular lack of urgency',[115] while Adass noted that the 'considerable time-lag restricts the public from making informed choices about providers at a time when national policy supports choice as a core value'.[116]

84.  The information currently provided by the CQC on adult social care providers is unhelpful and often out of date. We welcome the introduction of an 'under review' label where the CQC is investigating a provider, but we find it surprising that it has taken so long to provide the public with such essential information. The delay in developing provider profiles is particularly frustrating as they could have been a useful interim guide for the public until a successor is developed for the star rating system. The constant slippage in the planned roll-out of the profiles is further evidence of a lack of control within the organisation.


85.  The Adult Social Care Excellence Award is the proposed successor to the star rating system that operated under the Care Standards Act 2000, and which came to a close with the expiry of that Act in 2010. CQC is developing the scheme at the invitation of the Department of Health. The award is intended to demonstrate where providers meet a standard of 'excellence' above and beyond the CQC's essential standards. The CQC is currently consulting on the principles behind the award, the definition of excellence, and suggested assessment procedures. It intends to launch the new award in April 2012. Under the consultation proposals (and as set out in the Government's own consultation on social care services[117]) assessment for the award would be voluntary. Assessment would be carried out by a third party organisation on behalf of the CQC, and the provider would pay an additional charge for assessment towards the award.

86.  Evidence to the Committee was widely critical of the proposals. The Relatives and Residents' Association told has that they 'totally reject' the concept 'on grounds of cost, equity and total inappropriateness',[118] while Adass cautioned that the voluntary nature of the system would 'not help the public with easy to access and understandable ratings of all care providers'.[119] The English Community Care Association, Action on Elder Abuse, and the National Care Association also opposed the scheme.[120] The imposition of an additional charge for the assessment raised concerns that smaller providers could be financially excluded from the award.[121] There are also questions over the suitability of using a third party to carry out the assessment: 'surely when inspecting providers of care CQC is best placed to identify which provider is delivering an excellent service'.[122]

87.  The proposed Adult Social Care Excellence Award has been roundly rejected in evidence submitted to us. We share these concerns and recommend that the project is dropped.

106   These standards were awarded under the Care Standards Act 2000, which expired in September 2010. The CQC stopped awarding star ratings in July 2010. Back

107   See Health Committee, Appointment of the Care Quality Commission, HC (2010-12) HC461, Q 31. The transcript of the session can be found on the Committee's website ( Back

108   The CQC state that the provider profile will 'tell people at a glance whether each service is meeting the essential standards. If they are not, it will state what improvements we require to make sure they do meet the standards involved. People will also be able to see when we have carried out a formal check of a service, whether it was directly in response to concerns or a routine check. Most importantly, each profile will include information about what people told us during our last formal check'. Care Quality Commission, Annual Report and Accounts 2010-11, p17. Back

109   Care Quality Commission, Business Plan 2010-11, p9. Back

110   Care Quality Commission news story, New excellence scheme for Adult Social Care, 28 February 2011 Back

111   Q 236 Back

112   Care Quality Commission, Annual Report and Accounts 2010-11, 13 July 2011, HC 1212, p17 Back

113   Ev 44 Back

114   Q 213 Back

115   Ev 28 Back

116   Ev 62 Back

117   Department of Health, Transparency in outcomes: a framework for adult social care, November 2010 Back

118   Ev 74 Back

119   Ev 62 Back

120   Ev 28 (English Community Care Association), Ev 38 (National Care Association), Ev 45 (Action on Elder Abuse) Back

121   Ev 45 (Action on Elder Abuse), Ev 38 (National Care Association). Back

122   Ev 38 (National Care Association) Back

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Prepared 14 September 2011