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CQC pulls inspection reports after discovery of duplicate phrasing

January 22, 2020

In a website newsletter, specialist legal firm Ridouts Professional Services says it has been made aware that the Care Quality Commission has removed a number of inspection reports from publication following concerns that an expert by experience had duplicated quotes and evidence across different providers’ reports, making the evidence base of the reports unsound.

“It has been suggested that, as a result of the conduct of the expert by experience, CQC has not been able to assure itself that the ratings stated in the affected reports are an accurate reflection of the services at the time of inspection and therefore they have withdrawn the reports,” writes Ridouts solicitor Samantha Cox.

“As a result of the reports being removed, the provider ratings have reverted to whatever rating was found at the inspection prior to the latest, removed report. This means that some providers’ ratings have decreased overnight. We have noted one provider who has lost their Outstanding rating, another who has been downgraded from Good to Requires Improvement and one who has reverted to no rating as they had only been inspected once. The reports appear to span a number of years. CQC has assured affected providers that they will be carrying out comprehensive inspections of their services within the next couple of months in an attempt to put things right.”

Ridouts says they have noticed a general shift in CQC using more standard phrasing in inspection reports and this was supported by the regulator’s latest internal report writing guidance for adult social care services, dated July 2019. The latest guidance encourages the use of templates that incorporate stock phrasing, the intention being to help ensure consistency in CQC reporting across the board.

“However, this practice is concerning as it could have an unintended consequence of encouraging members of inspection teams, including experts by experience, to repeat certain phrases over a number of inspection reports,” said Ms Cox.

“This could make it harder to distinguish between genuine findings and those that may have been incorrectly repeated, as appears to have happened in the current case. We have also noted the use of stock phrases (including the use of ‘judgement statements’) has led to some areas of inspection reports not making sense and containing conflicting information. This highlights the importance for CQC to have robust quality assurance systems in place to ensure the accuracy of reports prior to publication.

“The factual accuracy comments process makes up part of that system and providers should always ensure their draft inspection reports are reviewed in detail, no matter the rating reached, to assure themselves of the accuracy of findings. Providers should be making detailed factual accuracy submissions to CQC in the event that any statements in a draft inspection report are incorrect or misleading to the public.”

Samantha Cox

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