CQC State of Care report: What it tells us about adult social care in 2016/17

#Guidance & Reports
Read Time: 5 minutes

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) released their annual State of Care report for 2016/17 at the Care Show this week. The report confirms many aspects the care sector is well aware of but there are also plenty of interesting findings that shed light on the state of our health and social care system and give us clear areas of focus for improvement.

In this article, I look at 4 key findings the report reveals. They give us a great understanding of the adult social care landscape in the UK in 2016/17 and highlight key areas for us to address and improve upon. Here goes:

Well done care providers, the quality of adult social care is mostly good and it's improving

As you well know, the CQC carry out a comprehensive inspection and ratings programme. Inspections from the past year have given the commission a good baseline picture of the quality of adult social care in England and you'll be glad to hear that it's looking good.

The CQC have inspected and rated all registered adult social care services over a three-year period and the result shows that the majority of care that people receive is good, with a decent proportion of providers and services delivering outstanding care. The chart to the right shows the split of adult social care services by rating, and as you can see an impressive 80% are rated good or outstanding. This represents an encouraging increase from the same results last year:

  • 2% rated outstanding at July 17 (1% at July 16)
  • 78% rated as good (71% in 2016)
  • 19% require improvement (26% in 2016)
  • 1% rated as inadequate (2% in 2016)

These figures are all going in the right direction, and care providers should be massively proud that despite adverse circumstances, care in the UK is good and is improving. The negative publicity and disproportionate scrutiny surrounding the care sector can sometimes distort our perspective, but these figures are a clear indication of a care sector that is getting better.

Related guide: How to get an outstanding rating from the CQC

The resilience of care staff has been exemplary, but pressure on providers needs easing

It's indisputable, carers and care staff are the absolute heartbeat of our social care system. Throughout 2016/17, pressure on providers and their staff has increased as a result of increased demand, serious financial pressures and Brexit leading to staffing/recruitment challenges.

Despite these tough tests, care staff have remained admirably resilient and have continued to deliver good quality levels of care and kept the social care system functioning.

Adult social care staff vacancy rates, 2012/13 to 2016/17
Adult social care staff vacancy rates, 2012/13 to 2016/17

As we look to 2018, we have to find ways of easing pressure on care providers. More financial investment is an obvious one, but grassroots projects and schemes to help with staff retention and encouraging more interest in social work are fundamental to longer term improvements. Attracting foreign recruits is also essential, it is quite clear that Brexit has created uncertainty amongst foreign care staff and the shortfall in new recruits is in part a result of this.

The graph above shows staff vacancy rates in social care over the last 5 years. Encouragingly, there is a slight improvement from 2015/16 but vacancy rates are still way too high and we have to make the sector more attractive to ease pressure on providers and existing staff.

Excellent improvements in quality overall but variation needs addressing

As we've already seen, the quality of adult social care in England is seeing significant improvements. The graph below shows the changes in service rating upon re-inspection, as at 31 July 2017. A large number of services have made good progress with many improving by at least one rating.

Change in overall ratings on re-inspection in adult social care
Change in overall ratings on re-inspection in adult social care

The excellent improvements in quality are great to hear, but the CQC rightly highlight that there is too much variation in quality. This variation is evident in re-inspections and also in inspections across different services.

The CQC state that there are substantial variations in the quality of care that people receive – within and between services in the same sector, between different sectors, and geographically. They say that the impact on people is particularly felt where sectors should come together but aren't as well as they could. Inspectors have seen how disconnections in parts of the system are creating real problems for people. This leads me on to the next and final summary point.

There has to be more local collaboration and joined-up care to ensure person-centred care

The CQC is clear that better care is often a result of providers working together to provide a more seamless service for their users, a service that is built around the needs of individuals. Multiple and complex needs mean that no service can effectively go it alone and collaboration with other services is paramount to ensuring person-centred care.

There is also the collaboration with the community. The CQC has found that where there is joined-up care – local health and care leaders collaborating to engage staff, service users, visitors and local partners to respond to the challenges they face - the quality of care is good. Technological innovation is an area that the CQC mention as offering an opportunity to collaborate and drive improvement in services. Technology also enables more convenient access to advice, treatment and medicines for patients and their carers.

There are some great examples of collaboration between services and engagement with the community on this blog. Check out a few:

Thanks for reading and I trust this article has given you a good insight into the State of Care report 2016/17. Find out more by downloading the full report.

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