Recession Risk To Social Care

The chair of the newly created Care Quality Commission (CQC) has spoken of her fear that the recession could undermine service standards.

Baroness Young, who heads the body that will take over from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission at the beginning of April, told LGC the “financial squeeze” would hit care providers.

“If people start cutting costs, they may well start cutting corners,” she said. “We’re going to have to be extra vigilant and work extremely closely with local authorities to make sure that we get as good a quality of care as we can.

“It will be really harmful if some of the gains of the previous years slip back because of the severity of the squeeze.”

Baroness Young said the CQC was still waiting for the Department of Health to publish the regulations that would define the scope and requirements of its new registration system.

But she said that at a time when some care homes were already experiencing budgetary “issues” as a result of the crisis, it was clear that moves to further improve standards and better integrate services would have to take account of tightening budgetary constraints.

“It perhaps does mean that we need to have a realistic view,” she said. “It’s not the best time to come in and talk about the pace at which we want things to happen.”

Baroness Young said a steady and supportive approach for driving improvement would be required.

She added that officers at the new body would be visiting councils over the coming months to talk about how the CQC’s role would vary from its predecessors.

She said it was still not clear what the effects of the changed inspection regime might be at ground level, but that the CQC was committed to “risk-based light-touch regulation”.

Baroness Young is a non-affiliated life peer in the House of Lords and has had a long career in health services management. She is also a former chief executive of the Environment Agency.