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Oxford East MP uses Oxford Mail to raise health watchdog concerns
AN Oxford MP made a pledge in Westminster yesterday to continue to put pressure on a health watchdog to do its job properly.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith warned it was crucial to make sure “proper inspections” are being completed in the county.
It follows a story in Monday’s Oxford Mail raising concerns about the number of inspectors the Care Quality Commission had in Oxfordshire.
Despite a responsibility for inspecting 447 health institutions across the county, the CQC only had two inspectors in the county last November.
This had increased to five last week, with another five in training, but the Government said yesterday that 10 full-time inspectors are in place.
But Mr Smith – who brandished the Oxford Mail during the debate at Westminster Hall – said 10 was still “not a lot” for the entire county.
He said: “If the pressure from Patient Voice, the county councillors, the Oxford Mail and myself has succeeded in doubling the inspection team for Oxfordshire in just a few weeks, that is good news, but it remains of great concern that they let their effort diminish to the extent they did.
“I will ask to see their work programme and the outcome of their inspections.
“I will want to be assured that proper inspection is being undertaken not only of hospitals and care homes, but also, crucially, of home care visits out in the community.
“Ten people is still not a lot to do that all over the county.”
Mr Smith also raised concerns that inspectors were being recruited who did not have any experience or knowledge of the NHS, healthcare or social services.
He said instead the CQC seemed more concerned with new staff having a background of regulation.
Patient Voice chairman Jacquie Pearce-Gervis said: “We should aim to have more inspectors, for the sake of the patients and their relatives.
“It’s really good that our local MP is taking this on.”
Jacqui Ling, whose mother was hospitalised after not being given enough to drink at an Oxford care home, said: “It is good that someone is taking some action.
“Putting someone into a care home is one of the worst things you can imagine doing. You want to know that someone is going to go around and inspect these places properly.”
But she said 10 inspectors was not enough, adding: “If I had my way I would have someone in there inspecting once a month, not once a year.”
Mr Smith questioned Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb about the number of inspectors and their experience.
Mr Lamb replied: “I am aware that local media has raised the issue of shortages of inspection staff.
“My officials have raised these concerns with CQC and I am informed that CQC has assured them that it is on track to achieve its goal of inspecting 100 per cent of adult social care locations across Oxfordshire by March 31, 2013, and that its Oxfordshire compliance team now consists of ten full-time inspectors and that, after a period of recruitment, CQC has had no vacancies in the area since last December.”
Ian Biggs, deputy director of CQC in the south, responding to Mr Smith’s comments yesterday, said: “I would like to reassure anyone who may be concerned about our inspection capacity that by the end of the month we will have inspected all care homes, hospitals and homecare services in Oxfordshire that were due to be inspected this year. “While we have been recruiting recently to bring our local team up to full strength, we have managed those temporary vacancies by bringing in the necessary skilled resources from elsewhere.
“We have offered to meet Mr Smith to discuss any concerns he may have.”