Care England has restated demands for the Care Quality Commission to minimise hikes to registration fees as the care industry grapples with squeezed authority funding and rising wages.
Speaking at the industry association’s annual conference, professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England (pictured above), said that the CQC needs to think again. “At a time when the care sector is facing enormous financial challenges resulting from years of underfunding and the increases in staff costs, following the implementation of the New Living Wage, It is totally unacceptable for the regulator to levy higher charges for regulation.”
Care England has supported the direction of travel within CQC to create a more focused and transparent inspection regime, so it will come as a blow to read newspaper reports this month that the organisation’s total spending increase to £4.4 million in 2014-15, four times its original budget.
According to a report in The Times, the CQC has said that the overspend was inevitable because its original budget was based on lighter-touch inspection regime.
What will be harder to explain is why the CQC has reportedly been splashing out on expensive stays at luxury hotels, spa resorts and stately homes during the course of its work.
A freedom of information request made by Health Service Journal unearthed that inspectors are routinely staying in luxury rooms costing up to £240 per night.
Professor Green suggested the price paid for hotels was not the main issue, but a sign that the watchdog was able to do its work without raising prices. “This shows us that there is no need to increase CQC’s fees,” he told Care Home Professional.
“Providers don’t mind whether inspectors stay at the Ritz or the Holiday Inn as long as they have the skills to inspect, [but ] when we are all being told to tighten our belts, the CQC should lead by example and hold fees at current levels for a least the next three years.
“The sector is in a very fragile state and we are all on tenterhooks to find out whether the Chancellor will resource us appropriately. It’s five to midnight,” he warned.
A CQC spokesperson responded to news of its travel expenses by explaining that “it is necessary for its inspection teams to have to travel and, on occasion, to stay in overnight accommodation”.