Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission

Happy New Year!

If you had a break over the festive season, I hope you enjoyed yourselves. Thank you if you were one of the thousands who worked to support and care for people at home or in residential and nursing homes. And heartfelt appreciation to the millions of family and friends who cared for loved ones.

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A frosty, festive season walk in Queen’s Woods!

2016 ended with greater attention than I can ever remember being paid to adult social care — the positive difference it can make to people’s lives and the dreadful impact it can have when it fails. Much of the debate focused on the need for increased funding, while others called for an overhaul of the system and enhanced rights for people using services.

I am glad that the spotlight is shining brightly on adult social care — it has been hidden from view for far too long: overshadowed by the NHS; obscured by a lack of understanding about its role, contribution, structure and funding; and neglected either because people think they won’t need social care and/or have little sympathy with those that do.

But while increasing understanding, tackling funding and improving integration with the NHS are all vital; none of this activity should ignore the necessity to focus on improving quality too. Yes, enough resources are crucial but what is done with those resources ‎is equally important.

Staff, providers, commissioners and funders, CQC and other national bodies working together, listening and responding to the voice and needs of people using services, their families and carers — we all have to ensure that despite the financial challenges, our aim should be nothing less than ensuring people receive care that is safe, effective, high-quality and compassionate.

As we move into 2017, I firmly believe we need to demonstrate that we care for social care and the people who depend upon it. This requires a collective effort but CQC has an important role to play sticking to our purpose and staying true to our values of Excellence, Caring, Integrity and Teamwork.

CQC has made significant progress in the last few years but there is always room for improvement which our focus on Excellence to be a high performing organisation recognises. Our next phase of inspections will build on these strong foundations modified to take account of our experience, the views of the public and providers and the changing environment in health and social care. Just before Christmas we launched the consultation on the new assessment framework which forms the backbone of our inspections. Please take the time to consider and comment on the proposals — the deadline is 14 February.

A further consultation will be launched in March on proposed changes to the inspection methodology specifically for adult social care and the new approach will commence in July 2017.

‎We say “we are passionate about making a positive difference because we care about people”. This drives, and will continue to drive, the work of us all at CQC. Treating people with dignity and respect and championing the rights of people using health and care services matter to us. A key aspect of this is our role in promoting and monitoring the use of the Mental Capacity Act and the Act’s Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, a key protection for people who may lack capacity to make their own decisions.

The importance of the Act and its safeguards is often misunderstood and neglected which is why I am so delighted that Rachel Griffiths, CQC’s National Adviser for the Mental Capacity Act, was awarded a well-deserved MBE for services to vulnerable people in the New Year’s Honours. Rachel has always been a staunch advocate of the Mental Capacity Act “to ensure the rights of people who might lack mental capacity are protected, and that they receive the best possible care and treatment.”

It is fantastic that Rachel’s contribution and the importance of this vital legislation has been recognised and valued in this way and it is essential that CQC continues to sustain this critical work as we promote high-quality services for all.

“Doing the right thing” is central to the work of any regulator and even more so in the world of social care and health. This is not necessarily comfortable or easy but it is fundamental to our purpose. For an organisation to deliver on that aim, it has to be led by someone who is full of integrity. Fortunately, CQC has that leader in David Behan, now Sir David after he was knighted in the New Year’s Honours. A social worker by profession, the pursuit of social justice runs through David like the lettering in a stick of rock. He sets high standards for himself and CQC and works tirelessly to ensure that we all focus on the needs of people using services. His knighthood is thoroughly deserved and the recognition of a lifetime of public service.

But knowing David, this honour will not change him, or his focus on making sure we do the right thing. So you can be sure that in 2017 and beyond we will continue to celebrate good and outstanding care, highlight services that require improvement and take action to tackle the inadequate care we find.

Together everyone achieves more and this is certainly true in adult social care. Our sector is diverse, fragmented and challenged but a collective focus on what we can learn from success and failure will help deliver the high-quality care that people using these services have every right to expect. This will be a significant feature of our work in 2017 as CQC joins with staff, providers, commissioners, the Department of Health, other national bodies, people using services and their representative organisations to establish a quality strategy for adult social care. Watch out for developments as the year progresses.

There are high expectations for adult social care in 2017 and I look forward to working with everyone involved to make this the year we really do #CareForSocialCare.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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