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NHS watchdog not up to taking on HFEA's role

2 April 2012
Appeared 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.

Care regulator has failed, say MPs
Press Association |  30 March 2012
Care watchdog slammed by MPs
ITV News |  30 March 2012
CQC response to PAC report
Care Quality Commission |  30 March 2012
CQC 'still has a long way to go' say MPs
Public Service |  30 March 2012
NHS watchdog not ready for new responsibilities, say MPs
Guardian |  30 March 2012
The Care Quality Commission: Regulating the quality and safety of health and adult social care
House of Commons: Committee of Public Accounts |  30 March 2012
13 August 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The UK's regulatory body on the use and storage of human tissue has outlined its position in support of its continued existence amid the Government's review of arm's length bodies...
16 July 2012 - by Rachel Cutting 
At the Association of Clinical Embryologists - the professional body representing clinical embryologists in the UK and abroad – we have grave concerns about dissolving the HFEA...
9 July 2012 - by Professor Alison Murdoch 
Government intends to save money by improving the efficiency of regulatory bodies. Providers of fertility treatments also favour more efficient regulation as it would help them improve their own services. This common purpose - the need for improved efficiency - is reflected in the consultation announced by the government; the central question is how it should be achieved...
2 July 2012 - by Earl Howe 
Standards should never come into question, but it's clear to this Government that NHS administrative costs can be streamlined. That is why I set out proposals to change responsibility for regulating fertility treatment and human tissue last week...
2 July 2012 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
The UK Government has launched a consultation on the future of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Human Tissue Authority (HTA) amid proposals to transfer the regulators' functions elsewhere....
19 December 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The Public Bodies Bill - which empowers the UK Government to transfer the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the country's regulator of fertility treatment and embryo research - has received Royal Assent and has become the Public Bodies Act. This Act represents the realisation in statute of the Coalition Government's longstanding plans for a 'bonfire of the quangos'...
12 December 2011 - by Oliver Timmis 
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will take over policing of IVF clinics, despite worries it cannot cope with the additional workload...
24 October 2011 - by Walter Merricks 
Perhaps the Government is right to plan to abolish the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The astonishing behaviour of its members at last week's open Authority meeting over compensation for egg and sperm donors will lower its reputation in the eyes of some of its erstwhile supporters. Those who might have manned the barricades to halt the Government's plans may now wonder whether the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the health and social care regulator set to take over the H...
7 February 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was once again the topic of a debate in the House of Lords on 1 February 2011. Following the proposed abolition of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), Baroness Glenys Thornton asked how the UK government will maintain public confidence and patient safety....
2 August 2010 - by Dr Evan Harris 
In its quick review of Arm's Length Bodies, published last week, the Government announced the HFEA would be disbanded. The news was welcomed by some, criticised by others and the HFEA put out a fairly terse statement...
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