Medicines management and staffing have been identified as key issues in a quarter of health and social care sites judged to be failing to meet essential standards of care.
The Care Quality Commission published a major report last week revealing a “snapshot” of performance by health and social care providers in England. It was based on unannounced inspections at over 14,000 locations – both NHS and independent sector – between June 2011 and March 2012.
Around a quarter of sites failed to meet all the CQC’s essential standards and 1% merited urgent intervention from the regulator.
The report revealed 17% of sites failed to meet medicines management standards, with inspectors seeing a “worrying number” of cases where the risks were not being properly managed. This was often due to a lack of information given to those taking the medicines or those caring for them, the CQC said.
Meanwhile, 11% failed on staffing standards, including actual numbers of staff and the support they were receiving.
“The non-availability of temporary staff and organisations leaving vacancies open for a number of months – particularly for qualified staff – can lead to compromises in the quality of care given to people, and staff training and supervision,” the CQC warned.
In addition, 15% of locations failed to meet essential standards on record keeping. Issues ranged from records being incomplete or not up-to-date, not kept securely or confidentially, or not showing that risks to people had been identified and were being managed.
CQC head of communications Chris Day, one of the report’s authors, admitted the figures were “disappointing”, but he said the report would establish a baseline for future improvement.
“It is a concern that providers are not meeting essential standards but what we are doing in this report is trying to highlight real areas of risk…we hope providers take a step back and look at their organisations and see how they measure up,” he said.
The CQC specifically highlighted maternity departments as an area of concern, noting that midwife numbers were not keeping pace with factors such as the rising birth rate and more complicated births.
Royal College of Midwives deputy general secretary Louise Silverton called the report “deeply concerning”.
“A failure to have adequate numbers of midwives leads to mistakes and lower quality care,” she said. “It is also not just the ratio that matters but also the skills and experience of the staff.”