Drink and Drugs News DDN May 2019 - Page 15

More on CQC inspections at: www.drinkanddrugsnews.com OF LIFE to avoid having inaccurate or damaging information about its service put in the public domain. Providers are told that for each point they must specify exactly where CQC can find the information that supports the correction or the information but that they cannot hyperlink or embed it into the form. It appears that there is no reason why this information cannot be sent separately by email, as long as the relevant parts are clear and specifically referred to in the FAC form. CQC’s website states that if documentation is provided in support of a point, you must specify the page and paragraph number and highlight the relevant part of the document that relates to the point you are making. We would always encourage providers to be clear and specific when it comes to referring to evidence, but often these matters are not straightforward. Under the new system providers will also have to work within the newly imposed character restrictions on each point they wish to make in the FAC. In the new FAC table each row is limited to a maximum of 975 characters (about 150 words). That said, the guidance also states that ‘if you cannot make your point using one row, continue in the one below’. The point of the word limit, therefore, remains unclear, and it may be the case that all CQC will achieve here is making response forms disjointed and cumbersome for both inspectors and providers to manage. DEADLINE FOR RESPONSE The new guidance suggests CQC will take a strict approach to the deadline for submitting FACs. The non-statutory deadline of ten working days has been in place for some time, and while the consultation had suggested this time would be shortened this proposed change was not welcomed by providers. As such, the ten working-day deadline has not been amended. However, CQC now states that it will not extend that ten-day deadline unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. Providers must let CQC know of any such circumstances ‘immediately in writing’ – at the moment there is no further information setting out what would be considered to be ‘exceptional’ circumstances, and therefore providers should be very careful to submit their FACs in good time and let CQC know in writing with as much notice and information as possible if they are not going to be able to meet the ten working-day deadline. www.drinkanddrugsnews.com ‘Providers should in no way be discouraged from submitting robust factual accuracy comments with evidence when these are required. CQC appears to forget how damag - ing and stigma tising an incorrect rating can be..’ REQUESTING INSPECTION NOTES The consultation had suggested that CQC was going to attempt to implement a blanket refusal to release inspection notes as part of the factual accuracy process. We are pleased to see that the new guidance takes a more measured approach to this, stating that, while CQC will not release the inspector’s full notes from an inspection, it ‘will consider requests for extracts of notes about a specific issue where this is reasonably necessary to enable you to understand the basis for a statement in the draft report that you believe is factually inaccurate (that is, if the basis of our statement is not clear from the draft report)’. It is absolutely correct that a provider should be able to request further information to clarify parts of a draft report that are unclear, to allow them to be able to provide an appropriate response. CQC now explicitly requests that if providers do ask CQC for information as part of the factual accuracy checking process, their request should be short, specific and should clearly justify why they need the information to raise a point of factual inaccuracy. We would always encourage providers to be specific about why sight of inspection notes or further information from CQC to enable them to respond to the report is necessary. Providers should not be discouraged from making such requests – after all the notes contain the underlying evidence upon which judgments and ratings are based. It remains to be seen whether the changes to the FAC process will really make it more efficient. At first glance, the changes appear to be geared to making the process easier for CQC but not necessarily for the provider. Providers should in no way be discouraged from submitting robust factual accuracy comments with evidence when these are required. CQC appears to forget how damaging and stigmatising an incorrect rating can be for a provider. In a climate where resources are decreasing, reports are becoming shorter and less detailed, and inspection timeframes are increasing, it is all the more important that providers seize their opportunity to ensure the information about their service that is placed in the public domain is correct. The new guidance and FAC tables can be downloaded at: https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/how-we-inspect-regulate/factual- accuracy-check-how-respond Laura Paton is an associate solicitor at Ridouts May 2019 | drinkanddrugsnews | 15