Using data to transform our regulation

Care Quality Commission
6 min readOct 15, 2021

In his latest blog, Mark Sutton, Chief Digital Officer, highlights our ambitions and plans to use data to transform our regulation.

Our new strategy launched in May, puts data and insight front and centre to how we’ll work in the future. We set out our ambition to be a smarter regulator — one that is more dynamic and flexible in how it regulates and provides up-to-date and high-quality information and ratings.

My colleague Joyce Frederick has shared an update on our new regulatory model in her latest blog. I’d like to explain a bit more about how we’re developing the way we use data and insight to support that work and target our resources where they can have the greatest impact.

Why is data so important to regulating health and care?

Firstly, by ‘data’ we mean everything that tells us something about the quality of care. Data is what we hear when we talk to people who use services, what we observe and collect when we cross the threshold of a service, as well as regular datasets that are shared with us by our partners in the health and care system.

Across health and social care, data is crucial for understanding patterns and changes — both improvements in the quality of care and risk. We saw this ever more clearly during the height of the pandemic as data was used to predict outbreak patterns and improve patient outcomes.

At CQC, for example, we increased our efforts to encourage people to use our Give feedback on care service during the pandemic to help us target our monitoring of services — working with our partners and stakeholders, such as Local Healthwatch. We also used our data to produce and share regular information with local, regional, and national system partners and to highlight key trends.

We want to make sure we use data from a broad range of sources to build up a rich picture of services, and make the best possible use of it. We want to move towards being smarter and more targeted in how we work. This will mean we can spend more time listening to people and observing care when we visit services.

With advanced technology and data science techniques, we want to harness this data to develop insights in new and ever-evolving ways. This means we’ll be able to provide much better and more consistent feedback to providers to help drive improvements in care and give much more up-to-date information to the public. More broadly, understanding and using data better is key to tackling inequalities in care across the health and care system — one of our core strategic ambitions.

This is our direction — but how will we get there?

What data to collect: Evidence to support our new regulatory model

Over recent months we’ve been working closely with providers, people who use services (and organisations that represent them) and our partners to develop and design the underpinning principles and concepts that will provide the framework for how we’ll regulate in the future to deliver our strategy — our new regulatory model.

A fundamental part of this is deciding what data and information we need to inform our decisions and ensure they are consistent. We’re proposing six evidence categories, covering everything from people’s experiences of care right through to processes (such as policies in place at a service). The categories will bring a more consistent structure to our process for assessing quality. Getting the right data into CQC is crucial to having an up-to-date view of quality and will enable us to be transparent in the decisions we make.

Transforming how we collect, manage, use and share data

Deciding what data to collect is the first step, but equally important is how we collect, manage, use and share it. We want to reduce duplication and workload for services in providing data to us. And we want to help the public and providers understand how we use their data and how it is helping improve care. At CQC we’re transforming how we work so that we:

  • Collect only the data we need, and use it wherever needed in the most efficient way.
  • Manage and maintain high-quality data in an accessible format with clarity on how it is being used.
  • Use data from different sources using data-sharing agreements; and share the information we gather ourselves with services and our partners and stakeholders where it will help improve people’s care.

We’re strengthening our ability to use powerful analytics and data science technology (such as artificial intelligence) to understand trends in the data we hold — across providers, care pathways and, increasingly, health and care systems. Human decision making will remain at the heart of our work, but we’re developing a new digital platform to bring all our data together in one place for our analysts and inspectors to interrogate and use to inform their judgements.

Provider portal and better data sharing

For providers, we’re developing a new digital interface — a provider portal — that will be a simpler, quicker and more intuitive way to give us structured data and information. It will mean there is one place for providers to register, update their information and submit new data such as statutory notifications.

Providers will easily be able to view, check and update the information we hold. They will be able to see insight trends, such as a view of falls reported to us over time. We also want the portal to help providers benchmark themselves with other similar providers and services to help share learning and drive their own improvements.

We’re also working closely with our partners in the health and care system to set up new data-sharing agreements, building on our positive work during the pandemic.

Better services for the public

For the public, we want to deliver an inclusive public listening service. This will proactively monitor, encourage, enable and act on a wider range and volume of people’s experiences to drive our decision-making. We want to seek out new sources of data about people’s experiences and we are exploring how we can transform the capture, storage and analysis of these experiences, that people take the time to share with CQC and others, to ensure we make the most of them. By doing this we’ll be able to report on how we’ve acted on people’s experiences and provide a feedback loop to individuals. It will also enable us to improve our reporting to be clear about how people’s experiences have informed our assessments and ratings.

What’s next?

We’ll continue to work closely with providers, people who use services and stakeholders to test our new regulatory model and shape and refine the evidence categories. We’ll explore what evidence is required to assess different types of providers and how we weight different types of evidence. We’ll also work with providers to design the new provider portal. We’d like to understand how it can help reduce the time spent giving us data, as well as the types of data that we hold about providers that they can access through the portal. These are key priorities for us.

We’d like to keep connected with you on how our ambitions to be a smarter regulator are shaping up and we’ll be sharing more blogs and podcasts during the course of this year and next. You can listen to our current podcasts on CQC’s Soundcloud.

We’re also always looking for people interested in joining us and working to deliver our strategy and transformation, including digital and data roles. Keep an eye on our jobs website and follow us on LinkedIn.



Care Quality Commission

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