Care Quality Commission racks up huge hotel bills in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 10:22 03 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:22 03 March 2016
The Government health watchdog's "new style" inspections regime landed taxpayers with a near six-figure hotel bill while checking on NHS organisations in Hertfordshire, an investigation can reveal.
Questions have today been asked about whether the Care Quality Commission (CQC) represented value for money after it emerged teams visiting Hertfordshire during a nine-month period spent a total of £95,209 on accommodation, including five-night stays at four-star hotels.
In one visit, an inspection team of 83 racked up a £50,880 bill staying at the four-star Thistle St Albans Hotel, while checking on the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
The watchdog, whose budget is due to fall from £249million this financial year to £217m in 2019-20, said its new approach to inspections involves larger teams and longer visits to provide more detailed assessments, while insisting the hotels chosen were cost-effective.
But, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said that while the CQC plays an important role in monitoring standards “they must ensure that they offer taxpayers the best-possible value for money and carry out their work as efficiently as possible”.
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show that 172 inspection team members spent a total of 829 nights in hotels in the county, at an average cost of £115 per person per night, between May 2014 and January 2015, while visiting hospitals and NHS trusts.
CQC guidelines prevent teams staying in five-star hotels or those where fees exceed £95 for bed and breakfast, rising to £145 in London.
“We are committed to ensuring value for money,” a CQC spokesman said.
“CQC’s ‘new style’ inspections involve larger teams, including specialist inspectors, experts in the field, and members of the public who represent the views of people who use services.
“They last longer so that more time can be spent in observing the care that is being delivered, in speaking to both people who use services and health and social care professionals, and in feeding back initial findings to the providers so that improvements can be made quickly.
“This gives a much more in-depth and detailed assessment of the quality of care, which encourages learning and improvement and can help people make informed choices about their care.”
The CQC said its teams also used the hotels for their conference facilities to meet up and discuss findings post-inspection.