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CQC to trawl online networks to find complaints


Comments left online about nurses and standards of care could soon be picked up by the Care Quality Commission with new software.

The CQC is looking at setting up an IT system that will monitor social networking sites such as Facebook for complaints about care homes and healthcare providers.

The regulator is hoping to pilot the information gathering system next year. It is similar to the technology used by the security services to identify and trace terrorist extremists online.

The web crawling systems would produce a real time feed for the CQC of comments left with local media, blogs and social networking sites about the quality of nursing across the country.

CQC director of intelligence Richard Hamblin told Nursing Times the software might even be able to pick up patterns of internet searches on a topic that could alert it to a potential problem.

He said the work with developers Qinetiq was being appraised by the Department of Health now and, if approved, a pilot would start before April.

Mr Hamblin said the spur to consider a new system came from the challenge posed by the large number of social care facilities the CQC must regulate.

“There’s something about the nature of the care you get with social care which also makes it suited to this kind of information-gathering,” he said.

“With social care, we know a lot of the good information is going to be qualitative rather than quantitative because the units [of measurement] are so low.”

As of October this year, the CQC became responsible for assuring the quality of 24,700 separate social care facilities or services. Many of them are very small, and monitoring them would be difficult under the regulator’s current manual qualitative analysis model.

The technology will be designed to avoid campaign groups being able to spam the system to get their particular concern picked up.


Readers' comments (4)

  • What the hell? Does anyone else find this insidious and just plain wrong?

    Any level of personal rant will now be taken as gospel against professionals?

    The CQC should concern itself with actually doing something about the complaints it does get! I have personally registered concerns about staffing levels and levels of care in the past (aimed at working conditions and management rather than staff), and to be fair the people I spoke to were very helpful in giving advice on what I could do, but they basically at the end of it said there was nothing they could do and it was up to me.

    This sounds like simply another chapter in the Nurses Malleus Maleficarum.

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  • I don;t always agree with Mike, but l do feel on this occassion that he is spot on.

    What a rediculous waste of taxpayers money. Government agencies are notorious for spending millions of pounds on IT systems that generally don't work in any case!

    It is the inspection system which has been failing some patients for several years. As an ex Nursing Home Mnager, l found the system of local NHS and LA inspectors to be much more effective than the system which took over the function.

    They have local knowledge, and did investigate complaints made by staff and relatives. Their main influence was that they were always willing to call in an talk to me about any issue which was being raised, l did not have to wait for the annual inspection or the unannounced visits. yes we had them and they were seen by me as benefit not a disadvantage.

    This scheme is more likely to place staff in a position where they will feel that they are not able to speak out to their friends in confidence.

    The CQC need to just ensure that when they do visits, that they make it clear that they will accept anonymous written submissions if staff feel unable to speak openly about any concerns.

    I also feel that they should interview as many staff as they possibly can during their visit and that these interviews are confidential and at the request of the Inspection team. This way the staff who do have concerns will not be identified.

    Unfortunately, there is very little union membership in the private sector, so staff do feel unsuppoted when they have a problem. Maybe the CQC should have advisors who sole responsibility is to advise and support complainants. In this way, they can be sure that genuine concerns can be processed to a more formal investigation process and potentially vexacious complaints are weeded out at an early stage.

    I find the current position where the CQC appear to be accepting a large number of Nursing Homes, who do not have a nurse as the "registered person", to be quite unacceptable.

    I also find it unacceptable that the rules appear to have been changed, on having an RMN as the "registered person" in nursing homes which provide the care of those people suffering from dementia.

    These people have specialist needs which, in my experience are not being met by RN who do not have the specific experience to provide the specialist care needed.

    CQC when it comes to Nursing Homes, talk to nurses who have experience in these facilities, don't talk to the IT fraternity as their record in the Heaklth Care Sector has not been glorious.

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  • This is CQC’s latest wheeze to do away with inspection.

    The top management of the Care Quality Commission achieves new heights of absurdity with their plan to become the GCHQ for care.

    According to your report, the CQC’s director of “intelligence”, Richard Hamblin, hopes to pilot a system next year that will monitor social networking sites to pick up complaints about care homes. Hamblin said that this initiative sprang from the problem posed by having such a large number of social care providers to regulate. (He failed to add that the other side of the problem was having such a small number of inspectors.)

    CQC is developing this new system with the help of Qinetiq, the highly profitable, privatised defence research and technology firm, now adding social care to their repertoire. Hamblin claims that “There’s something about the nature of the care you get with social care which also makes it suited to this kind of information-gathering.” (Hamblin clearly regards himself as a leading expert in the nature of social care: this is a job for computers not inspectors.)

    Yes, Mr Hamblin, please instruct the CQC call centre to advise those callers who are old-fashioned enough to use a telephone as follows: set up a Facebook account and make repeated entries about your issues. Very soon your concerns will be picked up by the new CQC web crawling system. And then what?

    Well . . . CQC haven’t thought out that bit yet. Perhaps they could employ some inspectors to visit those care homes that are highlighted on the system? No, that would never work; it’s been tried before. As the experts tell us, care homes are not really suited to that kind of information gathering, and, in any case, for little more than £100 a year, residents cannot expect CQC to pay real human beings to fritter away their time visiting care homes. That £100 falls far short of what it takes to run the head office and to pay the top management and partners like Qinetiq, all of whom have to be experts in social care.

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  • I am a young student nurse...with no experience of being under this system however at first glance i thought this to be an excellent idea because i thought that when the complaints or even concerns were picked up by the CQC research would have been initiated and therefore health care professional would have been able to pick up the slack. But i guess i was wrong after reading the comments posted above.

    I personally believe nursing research is sooooo necessary to this profession sometime it may seem like things are happening only within an institution however when research brings to light these things and the fact that it is not only happening in that one place but rather in multiple places health care professionals can now understand that their action can affect change and they should therefore do the right things to affect the right kind of change.

    Hopefully this system can be used to further research. In that light i think it would be an excellent idea

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