The CQC has paused routine inspections but insists that safety remains its number one priority. An emergency support framework (ESF) has been developed for providers registered with CQC, which will be followed both during the pandemic and for a period afterwards.
The ESF is a set of questions and sub-questions, which an inspector will go through with providers via phone call. Essentially, it is a litmus test to show where you are up to, and to evaluate how prepared you were and are for the virus, and to then get a view on how many actions are required.
The CQC has been very clear that ESF is not an inspection and that your performance will not be rated. However, if it is deemed that further action is necessary, CQC will take it. It is very important that you are prepared for this call and have the answers to the specific questions ready, to ensure the process runs smoothly.
- How will the CQC be using and sharing information collected?
One of the goals of ESF is to collect information that can be used to identify key trends and inform policymaking, to help shape discussions and get providers the support they need. It is hoped that knowledge sharing with local and national care partners will help mitigate and manage risk, and mobile support where it’s needed most.
In practice, this means collecting and monitoring information through CQC’s usual data sources, increasing efforts to encourage feedback from the public and care staff, and introducing new sources, such as CQC’s daily tracker for care at home services.
- What will the CQC ask during ESF calls?
Conversations with CQC inspections will focus on four areas. They may not need to cover all the questions as things may already be clear, but the four areas are:
- Safe care and treatment
- Staffing arrangements
- Protection from abuse
- Assurance processes, monitoring, and risk management
Within each area, there are a number of discussion questions and these vary depending on the type of health and social care provider you are. In essence, they aim to explore and discuss how prepared you are and how your service is managing in this pandemic.
Within the ‘safe care and treatment’ area for adult social care services, the first discussion question asks ‘Had risks related to infection prevention and control, including in relation to COVID-19, been assessed and managed?’
We recommend visiting CQC’s website to find a complete list of the discussion questions.
- How will the ESF call run?
Inspectors will contact you first to arrange a date and time to make the call, to allow you to plan and make the best use of your time.
Expected to take no more than an hour, calls will be carried out through the Microsoft Teams platform where possible, requiring a computer and internet connection. Where Microsoft teams cannot be used, the call will take place over the phone.
In the event a manager is unavailable because of illness or emergency, the inspector can ask to speak to another appropriate senior member of staff.
Based on existing and new information, the CQC will prioritise providers who they believe most need to be called for a supportive consultation.
Where the inspector is confident that there is a lower risk level, they can decide not to call you, but they will remain available should you want support and can be called if you’d like advice.
- What information will the CQC gather and record?
Inspections will make note of the discussion around the four key areas and the challenges and stresses for your service, as well as the wider local care system.
To help share best practice, they will also note innovative ways you are responding to challenges.
An audio recording of the calls will not be made, as the call is not a regulatory process.
In some cases, CQC inspections may ask for evidence about specific risks and issues. The CQC may, therefore, ask you to ‘share your screen’ during the call or send an email attachment.
Following the conversation with an inspector, you will be sent an email with a summary record attached in a PDF format.
This will list:
- The short questions asked and the appropriate standard wording that reflects your answer
- A summary of the specific internal and external risks and challenges discussed
- Any sources of support suggested
- A short summary of whether the service is ‘managing’ or ‘needs support’
Details will also be included of any innovative practices you may have developed to manage the situation.
As this emergency process is not an inspection, the summary record is not an inspection report and so contains no rating. This means that usual steps such as the factual accuracy process do not apply.
Summary records will also not be published on their website. However, if CQC decides that they need to inspect a service, the inspection report will be published.