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How to Prepare for a CQC Inspection in 2020

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We know what a headache Care Quality Commission inspections can be, how much valuable time is taken up in preparation for an inspection, and how stressful it is to be the subject of CQC scrutiny. So we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate through these difficult waters. We’ll break down exactly what the CQC is, what they’re looking for when they carry out an inspection, and tips - including essential checklists - to help you sail through the process.


What is the Care Quality Commission?

Anyone working in the health or social care sectors in England will be familiar with the role of the Care Quality Commission, or CQC. The CQC is the government body that monitors, inspects and regulates all UK-based health and social care services, to ensure that minimum standards of quality and safety are met at all times, for the good of patients and service users. 


This means that all NHS trusts, independent hospitals, GP practices, walk-in-centres, residential and nursing homes, home and social care providers, dentists, ambulances and mental health services in England are subject to regular CQC inspections. What’s more, all of those services are legally obliged to meet the standards of care laid down by the CQC. 


In the interests of transparency, the CQC publishes its findings in the public domain, to enable patients and service users to make informed choices about their own health and social care journeys. In cases where services fall short of minimum standards, the CQC will take action to either remedy the situation, or - failing that - close the provider down. 


So it’s no surprise that the mere mention of the CQC - particularly when followed by the word ‘inspection’ - has the potential to send a shiver running down your spine. 


How do I prepare for a CQC inspection?

The Boy Scout Movement said it best: ‘Be prepared!’ CQC inspections are complex, elaborate processes which involve an inspection team, several hours of interviews (with both staff and patients/users of the service), extensive reviews of paperwork (including care pathways and complaints forms), observations carried out by the inspection team, and full reviews of documentation and policies. As an example, when an NHS Trust is being inspected, the inspection team can have up to 50 members, including clinical and other experts, services users and lay people. In other words, it’s impossible to bluff your way through a CQC inspection, cover up mistakes or to rush around for a couple of hours beforehand to get your paperwork in order. The only way to ensure that your business meets the criteria laid down by the CQC - and to pass the inspection with flying colours - is to integrate those criteria fully into every aspect of the service. 


CQC inspection checklist for health and social care

One possible way to find out whether you’re ready for your next CQC inspection is to use a comprehensive checklist, like one of the many available online, or to create one of your own based on the CQC’s Fundamental Standards. They are available from a variety of sources, and you can easily find checklists claiming to be official ‘CQC inspection checklists’ for a range of services, from care homes to GP surgeries and dental practitioners. These tools can be helpful, but be warned: they are not officially ratified by the CQC, and the responsibility of ensuring that the CQC’s Fundamental Standards are being met is solely that of the service provider. So be sure to check that any online tool you download covers all the relevant areas to be inspected, and choose your resources carefully.


What should a CQC compliance checklist cover?

The CQC will assess all health and social care providers against their compliance with the CQC’s Fundamental Standards. They use predetermined Outcome Measures to analyse whether an organisation meets those standards, and will require documentary evidence to demonstrate whether these outcomes are being met. 


CQC Guidelines on preparing for an inspection

Fortunately, the CQC has issued comprehensive guidance on how to prepare for an inspection, detailing the documentation you’ll be required to produce when you’re inspected, and suggestions for how to demonstrate that the CQC’s Fundamental Standards are being met. Furthermore, the guidance fully explains the principles behind the inspection process, the elements that the inspection team will focus on, and how they arrive at their judgements. It’s an extremely helpful document for anyone new to the inspection process, and should be the first port of call for any provider.


How can you make the process simpler?

There’s no doubt that the issue of CQC inspection can be a stressful one for any service provider, ranging from primary care services to NHS Trusts to GP surgeries, private health providers, healthcare startups providing clinical services, residential care and nursing homes, to dental practitioners and home care providers. The list is almost endless. So, what can be done to make the process more straightforward and less stressful?


Automate the process with Credentially

CQC compliance is a minefield, and an issue that keeps many service providers and HR professionals awake at night. But it needn’t be that way. We can help.


If you want to eliminate some of the stress from the inspection process and ensure that your service is CQC-compliant, it might be time to call on the experts for some professional support.

Credentially offers a simple, cost-effective way to automate all your hiring, on-boarding and credentialling processes onto a single technology platform. Our fully customisable software will enable you to hire faster, reduce admin, control costs and - crucially - master CQC compliance. It’s the only system designed specifically for health and social care recruitment and compliance, is supported by experts from the health and social care industries, features fast and easy sign-up and offers best-in-class automated safety features, to ensure patient safety and keep your organisation on the right side of the CQC. 


If you’ve got ten minutes to spare, then take a look at our demo and see what Credentially could do for you. Our expert staff will walk you through the possibilities, show you just how much difference Credentially’s automated technology platform could make to your business, and demonstrate how you can lower costs through automation. You could also take a look at our testimonials, to see what other professionals have to say about our platform, and find out why health and social care staff love Credentially. 


With the support of our software, hiring, credentialling and on-boarding of new staff will become a walk in the park. What’s more, you’ll have peace of mind, knowing that your processes are not only robust, but CQC compliant. Which means goodbye to sleepless nights.

What does the CQC look for in an inspection?

Although CQC inspections will vary according to the type of service being assessed, all inspections centre around 13 ‘Fundamental Standards’, below which no care provider should ever fall. These standards have been devised according to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2010 and the Care Quality Commission (Registration) 2009. This legislation can be fairly difficult to get to grips with, but thankfully the CQC has produced a supporting document, entitled ‘Guidance for Providers on Meeting the Regulations’, which aims to help providers to comply with the regulations and includes useful advice on how to achieve compliance, covering issues from care provision to HR practises.


What are the CQC’s ‘Fundamental Standards’ of care?

The CQC’s ‘Fundamental Standards’ of care deal with the following areas:



Health and social care providers in England will need to have robust systems in place to demonstrate to the CQC that the Fundamental Standards are being met.


What are the 3 types of CQC inspection?

In the majority of cases, the CQC will carry out comprehensive inspections at least once a year (apart from dental surgeries, which are inspected bi-annually). Comprehensive inspections will address all aspects covered in the CQC’s Fundamental Standards. Additionally, the CQC may carry out ‘Focused Inspections’, for example if any cause for concern has been identified at the comprehensive inspection which requires further attention, or if the provider experiences a change in circumstances (such as a merger or acquisition). These inspections may be:


What are the 5 CQC Key Questions?

The CQC will begin an inspection by addressing five ‘Key Questions’ relating to the service under review. These questions are concerned with whether the service is:


How the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting CQC inspections

As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, routine inspections by the CQC are currently suspended, to avoid placing additional pressure on health and social care services. However, the CQC are still monitoring services in other ways, and responding to feedback and complaints as necessary. To find out more about how the CQC inspection process has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, read the full statement on their Covid response.


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