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Infection control blog: New year, new health and social care regulator

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Infection control specialist and Nursing Times blogger Pauline Macdonald on a new regulatory landscape in health and social care

Although timescales for the introduction of a new regulator are short, it is heartening to see that the prevention of HCAIs is high on the agenda when considering the provision of high quality health and social care in England.

Hopefully you will, by now, be aware that the New Year will herald the introduction of a new commission with the remit of regulating the quality of health and adult social care.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will bring together the work of three existing regulatory bodies: the Healthcare Commission (HCC), Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC).

The CQC was established in October 2008 by the Health and Social Care Act 2008. The Act comes into force in April 2010; however there are special requirements and regulations, related to the ‘hygiene code’, which will come into force in April 2009. These requirements and regulations apply to NHS organisations covered by the Code of Practice for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infection (HCAI).

Initially, registration related to HCAI will only pertain to NHS organisations but in April 2010 other independent health and social care providers will have to register. Additionally all organisation will have to declare compliance with a further 16 or more areas of the registration.

There is an aspiration that general medical practitioners and general dental practitioners will be required to register with the CQC in April 2011; this, however, has not been finalised and will be included in consultation regarding the scope of regulation due to be published in the new year.

Look out for it and submit your comments. I certainly will, and believe that many infection prevention and control specialists will share my wish that these providers are included in the scope of the CQC soon.

As part of the registration process organisations will be required to declare that they comply with the new regulations. NHS trusts will need to review their current HCAI plans and provision; don’t leave this too long the registration period is between 12th January and 6th February 2009!

Declarations will be cross-checked with evidence from previous HCC inspections, Standards of Better Health declarations, staff and patient surveys, issues raised by strategic health authorities and, for foundation trusts, reports from Monitor.

After consideration organisations will be registered, registered with conditions or not registered (Care Quality Commission, 2008a). NHS organisations who fail to register or are not registered by the CQC will be committing an offence if they continue to provide services after 1st April 2009.

As CSCI, HCC and MHAC do now CQC will conduct unannounced inspections of organisations, publish inspection findings and will have new powers of enforcement. I will not go into these powers in detail here – a little dry for a pre-Christmas blog - but the two publications cited are clear and readable.

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