CQC logoMany learning disability services are maintaining or improving quality, according to regulator the Care Quality Commission, and it is hoped that this continued. Andrea Sutcliffe spoke to Simon Cramp in an exclusive interview. 

At the National Children and Adult Services Conference, held on October 14-16 2015 in Bournemouth, the leaders of social services came together to discuss the latest policy and thinking in the field.

Organised by the Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Social Services and Association of Directors of Children's Services, the conference was attended by more than 1,000 delegates.

Speeches at the conference again focused on the ongoing austerity agenda and cuts, the future of health and social care and making that sustainable, among other topics.

Coinciding with the conference, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) launched its annual State of Care report, which provides an overview of health and adult social care in England. It showed that, despite increasingly challenging circumstances, many services had managed to either improve or maintain quality in the past 12 months.

"The information in our State of Care report… is based on the information we have found through our inspections of services in hospitals, adult social care and GP practices,” said Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC’s chief inspector for social care. “There are already a lot of good and outstanding services across the country.”

Sutcliffe added that she hoped the Vanguard programme, which is led by NHS England and supported by CQC among others, will encourage innovation and better joint working between services. “This will help to improve services for more people [in the future]," she added.

While the State of Care report found that many services had improved, there was still emphasis on the complaints a service receives and how they deal with them.

"Complaints are very important for service providers and for CQC as they can provide valuable information about what is happening in a service,” said Sutcliffe. “When CQC inspects a service we will always ask how a provider records and responds to complaints. We may look at what action has been taken to put things right for the person complaining but also for other people using the service.

"At CQC we have improved how we record information about complaints and information from whistleblowers so that we can share that more easily with inspectors. This helps us to decide when to inspect and what to focus on when we do inspect."

Likewise, CQC has improved its safeguarding policies, as well as strengthening its regulation of learning disability services in the past year.

"We have thoroughly reviewed our safeguarding policies and procedures over the last year and have provided better guidance for inspectors,” she said.

"On our regulation and inspection of learning disabilities services – we have strengthened our approach to the registration of new services, for example involving experts by experience in registration inspections. Also the new methodology for inspection of existing services which began in 2014 means that these services are looked at more thoroughly than before."

Sutcliffe also welcomed the recently-announced formation of the Mental Capacity Forum (MCF), a joint initiative between the Ministry Of Justice and Department of Health headed up by crossbench peer Baroness Ilora Finlay. The MCF aim is to work with stakeholders from health and social care, together with other sectors, such as police, legal, finance and housing to identify complementary actions that member organisations can pursue, especially at a local level, to improve implementation of the MCA.

"The work of the Forum is very important to CQC especially as we have a responsibility to report on the implementation of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, a crucial part of the Mental Capacity Act. We look forward to working with Baroness Finlay and colleagues to improve the awareness and implementation of the Mental Capacity Act."

Finally, Sutcliffe reaffirmed the CQC’s commitment to making its publications accessible to everyone. "We make the vast majority of our information available online and there is an easy read version of The State of Care on our website.” 

About the author

Simon Cramp is a fellow of the Centre for Welfare Reform and freelance writer. He also has a learning disability.