A new regulator with powers to fine hospitals and shut down wards will be created under legislation set out in Gordon Brown’s first Queen’s Speech.
The Care Quality Commission will bring together the functions of the existing Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.
It will also be equipped with a stronger remit to ‘inspect, investigate and intervene’ where hospitals are failing to meet hygiene standards.
The integrated regulator, to be set up under a forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill, will cover adult social care as well as health services.
Shipman case fallout
The bill will also seek to strengthen professional regulation, fulfilling a manifesto commitment in the wake of the inquiry into the Harold Shipman murders.
Regulatory bodies will be required to use the lower, civil standard of proof and healthcare organisations made to appoint a ‘responsible officer’ to work with the General Medical Council on cases of poor professional performance by doctors
Which? health campaigner Frances Blunden said: ‘This is a golden opportunity for the government to ensure that patients never again suffer as the result of another Shipman or Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells scandal.
‘The Health and Social Care Bill must ensure that the needs of patients are at the heart of regulation, so that people can be certain of safe, high-quality health care whenever and wherever they are treated.’
Responding to the government’s proposals on professional regulation, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the British Medical Association, said: ‘The BMA is keen to ensure that patients are protected from the small minority of doctors who represent a threat to patients.
‘However, this will not be achieved by abandoning the criminal standard of proof. The best protection of the public will be achieved by a system that commands the confidence of the profession and will encourage doctors to speak about problems with their own practice, or that of colleagues. We urge the government to think again.
‘If a doctor is at risk of losing their livelihood then surely nothing less than the current criminal standard of proof will do. The BMA will continue to lobby very hard to maintain this.’
Impatient for Change campaign
Last month, Which? launched its Impatient for Change campaign with the aim of improving the non-clinical aspects of patient care in NHS hospitals from hygiene to the standard of food and the organisation of care.
We’d like to hear from people – through the Impatient for Change website – who have recently had to stay in hospital.