30 June 2017: Providers who don’t display their CQC rating conspicuously and legibly on their website or in their homes are committing a criminal offence. This has been a requirement of registration since April 2015 (Reg 20A of the 2014 Regulated Activities Regulations). CQC gives clear guidance about displaying ratings and even provides a ‘rating widget’ for a home’s site to use.
When R&RA Helpline staff receive a query or complaint about a home it is standard practice to look at the home’s website, as well as reading recent inspection reports.
Some two years after Reg 20A came into force, our advisers noticed a worrying minority of homes were still failing to display their rating correctly, so we decided to investigate further.
It did not take long to find a (small but significant) number of websites that breached the regulation in varying ways. For instance, instead of displaying their rating as required, providers used references and quotes from earlier and more favourable inspection reports, or private reviews praising the care given to distract site visitors while only using an inconspicuous link to their actual rating. This kind of sharp practice not only confuses the public, but is unfair to the vast majority of providers who are decent and play by the rules.
For each breach we identified, we contacted the CQC and were concerned at the variation in response we received from Inspectors. Some had a clear understanding of Reg 20A and took prompt action, while a worrying number felt justified in reinterpreting the plain words of Reg 20A a lot more flexibly, stating that a link to the inspection report on the CQC site was ‘good enough’.
We took the view this was plainly not good enough. It put the public at needless risk of continued exploitation and worse, and failed to implement the clear wording of Reg 20A and CQC’s own guidance. And if this was the view being taken of such a clear and simple rule, what else might be going undetected?
action to raise CQC effectiveness, staff awareness and training
R&RA Chair, Judy Downey, wrote to the CQC Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, with our findings and inviting her comments.
We were pleased to receive a comprehensive reply agreeing we were correct, and our concerns important. CQC assured us they are taking steps to see how they can exercise this regulatory power more effectively, which will include further awareness and training for their staff.
We know how difficult it is for relatives and prospective residents to choose a home. A search for a suitable home usually takes place at a time of considerable distress and with little time to make a well researched and considered choice. Relatives and residents do not need the additional burden of sifting through misleading information and irrelevant testimonials instead of the true rating when a home is inadequate or requires improvement.
So we will continue to monitor how well providers are complying with Reg 20A and the way it is being policed by the regulator. If you believe a service is not displaying its rating correctly please let our Helpline know.