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Navigating a new inspection process on the road to Outstanding

Apr 22, 2021 | Latest News From Sweet Tree

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SweetTree volunteered to be one of the first home care providers to take part in the pilots for the new inspection process for the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

It involved a virtual ‘focused’ inspection – and SweetTree was delighted to be awarded a second consecutive Outstanding’ rating.

Knowing the new regulatory approach would bring significant changes our CEO Nicki Bones was asked by the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF) and the United Kingdom Home Care Association (UKHCA) to give a webinar about SweetTree’s participation – outlining our experience of the process as well as how SweetTree achieved its Outstanding rating during a pandemic!

Here Nicki summarises the experience:

How did SweetTree become involved in the pilot virtual CQC inspection?

We put our hands up to do the pilot and support the CQC. We wanted to help them understand how their new strategy, and the process, would work in practice. In October, we had a virtual inspection that was aligned to their new strategy to meet key objectives of smarter regulation, accelerating improvement, and engaging with people who use the services and safety through learning.

Our inspection was focused on two areas: Safe and Well-led. It did look at all the key lines of inquiry, but it was very much focused on safety and leadership, which of course on this occasion did focus on our delivery of care throughout the pandemic.

Top tips for other providers getting ready to go through the same process?

Be prepared to get all your evidence uploaded to Microsoft Teams!

You really need to be extremely data-ready and make sure all of your evidence is sitting on the Teams programme they have set up for you – which takes a lot of time. If you have 48 hours for an unannounced inspection, you need to know your team can be rallied to make sure that is all pre-prepared and uploaded. You will need to utilise different skills, whether that is IT management or involving someone who deals with all your reports, it takes a wider team that perhaps it would do normally.

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on this?

With an inspection and meeting compliance and regulation, it’s about having the right culture all the time to meet the needs of your clients, your staff, and your whole organisation. An inspection should not be seen as a one-off moment where everything is rallied together – an inspection should be prepared for, planned for, and part of everyday working to provide quality of care for people.

One of the wonderful elements of SweetTree is our culture – quality isn’t an event, it’s a habit! Part of the reason for maintaining our Outstanding has been having the right culture in place in the first place. It is also a whole team event, never simply reliant on the registered manager, but the whole team coming together, all the time.

We have a compliance meeting every week, and we add to what we call our ‘CQC Framework’ at each meeting, where we are logging all the things we are doing to meet both the key lines of inquiry and of course, the quality of care and training. The compliance team has been fundamental in the pandemic – no one person could have all those contingency plans and manage them.

Another thing that went down well with the CQC inspection was a PowerPoint presentation we gave to the inspectors prior to the inspection, providing an overview about what we do, the number of clients we support, our safety throughout Covid, our governance, compliance, and the training we give. Having all this information in one place before the inspection enables an inspector to understand your story and the journey you have been through to continue doing what you do.

It was extraordinarily new for all of us, and our inspector managed the process incredibly quickly and efficiently. With a key focus being outcomes inspectors contacted many professional contacts to SweetTree, the clients themselves, family members, and our staff. There was a far-reaching request for information from those stakeholders which is very positive as it’s nice to hear outcomes, rather than simply you as an organisation trying to give evidence of what you feel you’ve done well. The outcome is the important part and is what SweetTree, and now the CQC, are focused on.

As it was a pilot inspection, we completed an evaluation of how we felt it went. We felt the experience was very positive, although it was difficult for everybody, the inspectors made it as easy as they could. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, not being able to have those conversations face to face does make it harder, but they did everything they could to engage with everybody.

Watch the full YouTube video from the UKHCA here

As well as SweetTree’s full Outstanding inspection report here