THE number of calls to the Care Quality Commission raising concerns about patient care in England has more than doubled in the past year.
A total of 8,634 people contacted the regulator with a whistleblowing concern in 2012/2013, the equivalent of 24 calls a day.
The overwhelming majority of concerns (7,456) related to social care, such as residential homes and home helps. A total of 601 calls were about issues with NHS trusts, 309 related to independent healthcare providers and 122 were about primary dental care. Only 19 calls related to primary medical services.
The figures were revealed in the organisation’s 2012/2013 annual report.
The CQC said it has made improvements to the way it handles whistleblowing following the abuse at Winterbourne View hospital in 2011. Last April they set up a Safety Escalation Team to ensure all concerns are dealt with efficiently. The team “tracks and traces” all whistleblowing information and follows up each concern “to make sure they are being progressed to a resolution”.
One of the specific issues highlighted in the annual report was the treatment of older hospital patients. Of the 50 NHS trust hospitals inspected, 88 per cent and 82 per cent met standards of dignity and nutrition respectively. While compliance with dignity standards increased compared to the previous year’s figure of 83 per cent, nutrition compliance fell from 88 per cent last year.
The report stated: “It is clearly unacceptable that this position, poor to begin with, deteriorated further.”
Problems were also highlighted in dementia patient care. A review of patient outcomes revealed: “[T]he health and social care system is struggling to care adequately for people with dementia. This is having an impact on hospital capacity and resources. Once in hospital, people with dementia are more likely to stay there longer, to be readmitted, and to die there.”
Overall the CQC carried out more than 35,000 inspections of health and social care services last year. This included 845 of NHS trusts, 4,161 of dental care services and 2,434 of independent healthcare services.
Throughout the year they served 910 warning notices to care services that were providing unacceptable care. They also registered more than 7,500 GP practices and other primary medical services through the dedicated online services system.
The regulator said it had also increased its team of specialist advisors to 303, including 22 doctors, four GPs and 27 dentists. They offer advice and support to CQC inspectors.
CQC chair David Prior acknowledged there had been failings in the regulator’s past but said: “We are now very clear about our purpose – to make sure health and social care services are well-led and provide people with safe, effective, responsive, compassionate, high-quality care; and to encourage services to improve.”