02 April 2012
ByAppeared in BioNews 651
A recent report claims England's regulator of health and social care, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), is not at present ready to take on the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The report from MPs highlights the shortcomings in performance of the CQC and maintains it should improve effectiveness in its current practices before assuming responsibility for other organisations.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee described the CQC as 'poorly governed and led', and advised against the planned transfer of HFEA responsibilities in 2015. In giving evidence to the Committee, Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA, said that transfer of functions to the CQC would compromise the standard of regulation and may not provide value for money. The Department of Health (DH), which oversees the CQC, agreed to a 'pause' and full consultation before further decisions were made on the future of the HFEA.
Committee chair Margaret Hodge MP said: 'The CQC plays an absolutely vital role in protecting people from poor quality or unsafe care, but it has failed to perform that role effectively. It has clearly been struggling for some time and the Department of Health, which is ultimately responsible, has not had a grip on what the commission has been doing'.
According to the report, the DH underestimated the scale of the task when the commission was formed in 2009 which required the merging of three bodies at the same time as taking on an expanded role. The total budget for 2010/11 was lower than that of its predecessors and it actually underspent by £14 million due to delays in filling staff vacancies.
The report also detailed other major concerns in the CQC's performance, including its capacity to register and assess 10,000 GP practices later this year, and its provision of adequate public information on quality of care.
The CQC responded stating it was disappointed that the report didn't recognise the 'significant improvements' of recent months which the DH had called 'considerable achievements'. These were said to include an increase in the number of inspections and a tightening of its whistleblowing policy.