The Care Quality Commission could start judging organisations on how well they listen to their staff in a bid to assess culture.
The idea forms part of the CQC’s proposed strategy up to 2016, which is being developed by its new chief executive David Behan.
In an interview with Nursing Times, the former social worker said he acknowledged the culture of an organisation was very difficult to measure, but said that did not mean it should be ignored.
He said: “I’m acutely aware of the importance of culture in an organisation and how culture really does define the way people behave and how the culture of a care organisation influences the quality people get.”
As part of a consultation on the new strategy, Mr Behan said the CQC was asking: “Is there anything beyond standards which is about the culture of the organisation that we need to be alert to?”
The consultation proposes assessing how providers listen to the views and experiences of leaders and frontline staff, as well as people who use services and their families.
Mr Behan, who took over from Cynthia Bower in July, also said the CQC under his leadership would not be afraid to speak up if it found services were suffering due to financial constraints.
He said: “As the financial challenges continue I think there is a real risk quality could begin to be impacted.”
The CQC’s future role
The CQC’s new strategy is likely to mean a move away from its commitment to annual inspections of NHS organisations and most care homes.
Its consultation asks whether it is appropriate to regulate care homes, large acute hospitals and dental surgeries in the same way.
It proposes a “differentiated” approach based on the evidence of what is effective in each sector, and expects that will mean annual checks are not always the answer.
The strategy also promises to improve consistency in judgements on services, addressing a common complaint among providers, and strengthen the CQC’s approach to meeting its responsibilities for monitoring the detention of patients under the Mental Health Act.
The CQC is inviting views from all interested parties. The consultation closes on 6 December.