For several months service providers across the industry have been preparing for the launch of the new CQC Single Assessment Framework (SAF). In the build up to the recent launch (on 24th March 2024) of the new provider portal, providers have been eagerly discussing the pros and cons of the framework and the potential impact it will have on registered services. With discussions around what to expect, there is clearly some apprehension in what using the portal for assessment purposes will entail.

The implementation of the new SAF has raised concerns among some providers regarding the additional workload it may impose on staff. Nevertheless, the SAF is designed to facilitate real-time sharing of compliance and best practice data, fostering continuous improvement within agencies' operations and processes, thereby bolstering their overall performance.

Recognising the need for change, CQC is committed to promoting technology as demonstrated by their recent development of a new digital platform. The SAF will incorporate technology as a foundational element of the assessment process, mandating that all registrations and uploads of evidence demonstrating regulatory compliance be completed through the provider portal.

CQC emphasises the crucial role of maintaining service performance indicators that accurately reflect the quality of a service. Effectively initiating, implementing, and embracing change necessitates collaboration from all relevant stakeholders. As a result, providers will be responsible for submitting data to substantiate the ongoing and continuous assessment process.

Recognising that services cannot be strictly categorised, there will be a greater emphasis on understanding local services and communities. This approach is intended to offer valuable insights into the challenges faced by these services. The collected data will empower CQC to develop a more profound understanding of localised trends, facilitating the identification of patterns across various areas. This strategic approach aims to promote effective collaboration, enabling CQC to maintain a balanced perspective when exercising its regulatory powers and their targeted approach to inspections.

The fundamentals of the new Single Assessment Framework

The continual assessment of services will allow evidence to be gathered at multiple points instead of through inspection only. The evidence will be assessed in conjunction with the key questions of safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led. These were formally the key lines of enquiry (KLOEs) which had over 300 sub-questions to refer to, however this has now changed and 34 quality statements and related regulations are in place to support each of the key questions and evidence categories.

The aim of quality statements in supporting each key question is to give providers guidance of what good quality care looks like. The quality statements are expressed as ‘We’ and 'I' statements with a strong emphasis on people’s experiences and equity. This means that providers should holistically assess their service from a user experience perspective which includes, service users, family, friends, advocates, staff working in services and relevant partners who are involved in the care and treatment process.

The evidence categories are an intrinsic part of the SAF with an emphasis on:

  • People’s experiences
  • Feedback form staff and leaders
  • Feedback for partners
  • Processes
  • Outcomes of care
  • Observations of care.

Understanding the framework offers business and user confidence, with opportunities for service and rating improvement. Monthly downloads from CQC allow providers to verify accuracy and make necessary changes. Localised teams aim to understand local challenges and build positive relationships with providers for support.

CQC are making every effort to have teams of people that are localised and who will understand the challenges faced by providers at a local level. Use CQC and embrace building positive and longstanding relationships with your local teams, they’re there to support you.

Marina Martin is the Homecare Champion at CareLineLive, the all-in-one homecare management software.

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