infection prevention and control

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently announced new guidance for infection prevention and control in care homes. This article summarises what it contains.

This article was co-written by Helen Wallwork, partner and head of our Healthcare team, and Laura Stanley, solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team.

The CQC acts as the regulator of health and social care services in the UK. It regularly inspects care homes, hospitals and medical practices, then publishes reports on its findings.

When announcing the new guidance for infection prevention and control (“IPC”), Debbie Ivanova, Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care explained to social care providers its reasoning for the changes. She said, “I am sure that for all of you IPC is at the forefront of your minds when thinking about how we provide safe and effective care and this is therefore going to be a feature of our inspections over the coming months”.

What will the CQC inspectors be looking at?

CQC inspectors will be carrying out assessments in eight key areas:

  1. Visitors
  2. Shielding
  3. Admission
  4. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  5. Testing
  6. Premises
  7. Staffing
  8. Policies.

For each area, the CQC will state whether they are assured, somewhat assured or not assured by the provider of the service. These judgments will then be published on the profile page of the individual care homes to make them easily accessible for members of the public.

The guidance from the CQC suggests that the “somewhat assured” will apply when the inspector has identified minor issues and/ or areas for improvement. “Not assured” will tend to apply when there are more serious issues or a breach of the Regulations.

The CQC has already started to publish the outcome of the first batch of inspections on the website. A further 500 care home IPCs were carried out by the end of November.

For some tips on preparing for a CQC inspection, please see our article here.

Current infection prevention and control

Many care homes have significantly developed and built upon existing their infection control policies, procedures and practices over the past 12 months in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, assisted with the availability of the Infection Control Fund distributed to social care providers by Government via Local Authorities.

This fund continues to be available until at least March 2021 with the aim of reducing the rate of Coronavirus transmissions in care homes and supporting wider workforce resilience. As many care homes open their doors again to visitors through use of lateral flow testing, IPC measures have never been more important.

For more information about the criteria that the inspectors will be applying, please find further details on the CQC website here.

Our healthcare team has experience in challenging ratings, appealing penalty notices and getting decisions amended. If you are a provider and are looking for legal advice and support in respect of a recent CQC inspection, please get in touch.