Professor Sir Mike Richards
Chief Inspector of Hospitals
Increasing care needs combined with financial pressures mean that services are changing


Professor Sir Mike Richards

As the regulator of health and adult social care in England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) plays a crucial role in making sure people get safe, high-quality and compassionate care from services and in supporting providers to improve.

Over the last three years, we have developed and rolled out a radically different way of regulating these services to support this aim, including the introduction of comprehensive, intelligence-driven and expert-led inspections to get a more in-depth understanding of what the quality of health and adult social care services are really like.

For NHS trusts, these inspections lead to overall ratings of Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate, instead of simply assessing whether or not services are meeting standards. We have now inspected all 240 acute, specialist, mental health, community health and ambulance trusts. This is providing a unique picture of quality and a baseline of information which we are then able to use to help target future inspections and respond more quickly where there are concerns.

Our inspections to date have revealed a wide variation in the quality of care provided in the NHS and among independent-sector providers but we have also seen clear improvements in the quality and safety of care. Eleven NHS trusts previously subject to special measures have come out of the regime as a result of the progress identified when we re-inspected. This means that over five million people have benefited from better and safer care at their local hospitals.

CQC’s strategy for the next five years sets out plans for a more targeted, responsive and collaborative approach to regulation. It has been developed following a year-long engagement period, including a public consultation, in which thousands of people, providers, staff and partners shared their views about future regulation.

Increasing care needs, combined with financial pressures, mean that services are changing the way they organise and deliver care, and our approach is evolving to reflect these changes. We will be making greater use of focused unannounced inspections which target areas where our insight suggests risk is greatest and we will do more to help providers to monitor and report on their own quality.

This will make it easier for health and care services to understand what is expected of them and to report on it, and for people to know what to expect from their care.