The Care Quality Commission Challenges
This applies to all health and social care services, including those where inspections were previously postponed.
Throughout the pandemic, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has kept their regulatory approach under review.
In December 2021, the CQC postponed inspections of some services to support the acceleration of the Covid vaccination booster programme. However, from 1 February 2022, the CQC will restart inspections with a focus on the urgent and emergency care system, in particular they will be inspecting facilities where there is evidence that people are at risk of harm. This applies to all health and social care services, including those where inspections were previously postponed (except in cases where they have had evidence of risk to life). Triggers for inspections could include tip offs from patients or from patient’s families or whistleblowing from employees.
After each inspection the CQC publish an inspection Report on their website, normally within 50 days of the inspection. The Report presents a summary of their findings, judgements and any enforcement activity that they may have taken. The Report also describes any concerns found about the quality of care. The Report sets out any evidence they have found about breaches of regulations and other legal requirements – but what can you do if you think the report is inaccurate, erroneous and misleading?
Challenging a draft report
The leading case R (SSP Health Ltd) v Care Quality Commission  EWHC 2086 concerned a provider challenging the CQC for publishing a report which was factually inaccurate. The principles laid down by Mrs Justice Andrews in this case include the CQC having a duty to act in a fair and transparent manner when conducting inspections and subsequently publishing Reports.
Although quality checks are carried out by the CQC before publishing, you are able to challenge the Report before publication by way of factual accuracy checks. These checks provide permission for you to inform the CQC where information is factually incorrect or inaccurate and where the evidence in the report may be incomplete. The factual accuracy process gives inspectors and providers the opportunity to ensure that they see and consider all relevant information that will form the basis of CQC’s judgements. The Weightmans Primary Care Team can assist you with this process.
It is crucial when preparing your factual accuracy form that you obtain the necessary counter evidence and set out all the factual inaccuracies contained in the Report. If this is done properly, this can mean that a draft report rating your GP practice (or other service provider) as ‘inadequate’ could be amended to ‘good’. The impact of a negative inspection Report can cause commercial damage and professional embarrassment and add to the stress of your team, especially if it is picked up by the media. It could also impact on future tenders and cause long term reputational damage and expose you to unjustified criticism. So, it is worth setting the record straight where possible.
If you have received a draft Report and think you may have grounds to challenge you must act quickly as you only have 10 working days to prepare your form and submit this to the CQC. Our team are always contactable and can start assisting you with your factual accuracy forms straight away.
How we can help
Finally, the factual accuracy checking process should not be used to query an inspection rating. This should be done by requesting a rating review direct from the CQC. Our team are also able to assist you with this. If you have a complaint about how an inspection was carried out then please contact the article author and Associate Katherine Millray at email@example.com. You may be able to make a formal complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
Our healthcare team offers a full service to service providers. Working closely with our clients to provide partnership guidance, we aim to ensure there are robust policies in place whilst providing expert advice in relation to business crime. To find out more about the services we can offer, and for contact details, contact our health sector solicitors.
In addition to this, we have our own dedicated GP Advice Line which offers GPs advice surrounding matters including commercial, estates and regulatory Find out more about how you can benefit from twenty minutes of free advice.