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Racism and ageism up among CQC staff, leaked survey reports

Published on: 18 Aug 2023

The proportion of Care Quality Commission staff reporting age or race discrimination has increased steeply since 2021, alongside a big drop in those who believe it is a ‘good place to work’, leaked staff survey results reveal.

The Care Quality Commission focused its staff survey earlier this year on diversity and inclusion, to inform a new strategy, and repeated questions also asked in spring 2021.

There was a fairly small increase in staff who said they had experienced discrimination (from 5 per cent to 8 per cent), while 15 per cent had witnessed it (no figure for 2021).

But of those reporting this behaviour, there was a steep increase in those reporting ageism (22 per cent compared to 10 per cent) and race discrimination (19 per cent this year compared to 9 per cent in 2021).

There was a small fall in the proportion reporting disability discrimination (38 per cent compared to 40 per cent), though this remained the largest group. All other “grounds for discrimination” saw small increases, including ‘sex’ and ‘pregnancy, maternity, and paternity’.

The survey ran from 16-31 May and results have just been shared with staff. There was a 75 per cent response rate, representing more than 2,800 staff. 

Other results from the survey report, leaked to HSJ, show deterioration since 2021 on various measures, with fewer staff agreeing they work in an inclusive environment where differences are valued (64 per cent compared to 76 per cent in 2021) and fewer staff agreeing the CQC provides equal opportunities for progression or promotion.

There was a drop of more than 20 percentage points (from 73 per cent to 52 per cent) in those who agreed the regulator was “committed to an environment free from bullying, harassment and abuse” and a more than 40 point increase (from 24 per cent to 67 per cent) in those unhappy with how poor and discriminatory behaviour was dealt with.

Discrimination was most likely to come from a senior manager – with half of staff agreeing with this statement – but there was also increased discrimination from peers and other colleagues, according to the survey.

However, a high percentage (84 per cent) agreed they knew how to report bullying or harassment at work.

In March, the CQC published findings from its Listening, learning, responding to concerns review, which looked into how it dealt with “information of concern”, along with a barrister-led review into a high-profile whistleblowing case. The work found a lack of understanding of racism in the CQC, but reported no evidence of toxic behaviours.

Unhappy operations

Overall, fewer CQC staff members agreed with the statement “our organisation is a good place to work” (40 per cent down from nearly 60 per cent in 2021). 

The 2022 national staff survey of NHS staff found 57.4 per cent “would recommend their organisation as a place to work”, down from 59.4 per cent in 2021.

Operations teams were found to be the most unhappy, with ratings lower than the organisation average, and drops in satisfaction, and an increase in discrimination.

This echoes a CQC staff survey done last year which focussed on “organisational culture”, and which also found the operations teams – which made up more than half of respondents – reported the worst survey results.

Data, technology and insight teams, and regulatory customer and corporate operations, reported improved results when compared to 2021.

Chief executive Ian Trenholm said in a statement to HSJ that the results presented a “mixed picture”, and that it needed to do more.

He highlighted that “experiences vary across the organisation. In particular, the results for colleagues with some protected characteristics, or those with caring responsibilities, are concerning”, with “results for disabled colleagues worse across the board”.

Mr Trenholm added: “It is also incredibly disheartening to learn that some colleagues have experienced some form of bullying, harassment, abuse, or discrimination in the last 12 months. Again, the figures are higher for colleagues with protected characteristics or caring responsibilities.  This is completely unacceptable. No-one should be treated in this way.”

The CQC said it had held workshops with equality networks to understand issues with how staff were recruited, and had launched a new “inclusive leadership pathway”, among other changes.