Southern Cross failure could speed handover of social care regulation

The collapse of care homes operator Southern Cross is likely to prompt the government to hand healthcare regulator Monitor responsibility for social care “sooner rather than later”, Monitor’s interim chief executive said on Tuesday.

David Bennett, also the regulator’s chairman, made the comment the day after its board delayed recruiting a chief executive, saying none of the candidates that came forward had “the right mix of skills and experience for the role as currently set out”. The recruitment process is likely to re-start in 2012.

He told the Westminster Health Forum that the Health Bill gave the health secretary a “switch” to turn on Monitor’s responsibility for the social care sector, but set no date when that should happen.

Two recent happenings “might suggest it should be switched on sooner rather than later”, Mr Bennett said. He cited the reform programme’s emphasis on integrating care and the collapse of Southern Cross.

“Although there is a failure regime today, which the [Care Quality Commission] is involved in, there is an argument I think for saying it should be wrapped into the broader financial failure regime we will be operating,” he said of Southern Cross.

He added that he did not know the government’s intentions, but imagined those two factors were “likely to lead them to switch it on sooner”.