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CQC releases staff to help with winter crisis

Published on: 10 Jan 2023

Staff at the Care Quality Commission have been released to volunteer for frontline work at trusts during the winter crisis, the regulator has announced.

The Care Quality Commission has said staff with experience working in the NHS can volunteer for a limited time to support providers under severe winter pressures.

The move forms part of the CQC’s response to the current crisis in the NHS, which also includes suspending some inspections of GP services which had been planned for this winter.

It echoes a similar move taken by the inspectorate in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, when it sent its special advisers to work in the NHS. Other CQC staff were also seconded to the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, and NHS England to support the national response.

A CQC statement today said: “If staff with up-to-date clinical qualifications wish to return to frontline services they will be supported to do so if possible. This was also the case during covid, when a small number of clinically qualified staff returned to frontline services, in addition to staff who volunteered in a non-clinical capacity.”

The CQC has said there will be no further changes to its “risk based” inspection approach during the winter, other than the postponement of some GP inspections. The CQC’s statement said it would “continue to respond to the most serious risks in NHS organisations”.

This appeared to differ with a statement by health and social care secretary Steve Barclay, who told the Commons that, in order to free up frontline staff, “the CQC have agreed to reduce inspections and focus on high risk providers in other settings like mental health”.

Government sources told HSJ on Monday that Mr Barclay was signalling that emergency services would not be inspected while they are under the current pressures. But a CQC spokesperson later said there would be no change to the inspection regime for accident and emergency services.