A fifth of hospitals are failing on dignity and nutrition standards, Care Quality Commission inspections have found.
Work on inspecting 100 hospital trusts on the standards began in February immediately after a damning report from the health ombudsman revealed widespread poor care of the elderly.
Reports from the final batch of inspections were published last week and revealed worse results than the regulator expected.
Overall, a fifth of trusts were non-compliant, while a further 35% were told they needed to do more to remain compliant and were issued with “improvement actions”.
CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said the biggest problem was staffing.
“Sometimes it’s about numbers or skills mix but sometimes you have extremely well staffed organisations and it’s about how they recruit, train and support the people they have in place,” she said.
Safeguarding also emerged as an area of weakness, which Ms Bower said was “undoubtedly” linked to the “training problem”.
She also revealed the CQC planned a “massive increase” in the number of nurses and doctors it employed to inspect hospitals.
“We’ll make efficiencies internally…so we can afford to bring in clinicians on short term contracts and train more ‘experts by experience’ [clinicians with specialist knowledge],” she said.
Currently the CQC uses a pool of only around 20 clinicians, calling on specialists when required. Overall there are about 800 inspectors, a figure the CQC wants to boost by 15%.
The decision is likely to be welcomed by Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes, who in written evidence to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust inquiry, criticised the CQC for carrying out inspections with only the “loose involvement” of nurses or midwives.
At the moment nurses and midwives are invited to accompany non-clinically trained CQC inspectors on visits but are not involved in the process from the start.
The extra inspectors would allow the CQC to visit every organisation unannounced at least once a year, Ms Bower said. In the past year only two thirds of trusts have been inspected.
Failings such as the abuse of learning disability residents at Winterbourne View showed the need for inspectors to “cross the threshold” of an organisation, Ms Bower added.
The CQC has asked the Department of Health for £15m to help fund the changes and is awaiting its response.