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How we continued to provide safe services in line with CQC regulations through the pandemic

It’s safe to say that the last few months have bought about changes that none of us could have predicted.  

Many, if not all of us have had to change the ways we work, socialise, and go about our days to help keep each other safe.

We’ve had the important job of making sure our services continue to operate at a safe standard, in line with the regulations set out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the CQC would carry out routine inspections of health and social care services through visiting and reporting the level of which each service was Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive and Well-led. You can read more about CQC inspections on their website here.

The CQC paused routine inspections during the pandemic but are continuing to inspect services where they have concerns about quality and safety.

Currently, our existing CQC performance is impressive, with 97% of our services rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. These inspections and processes are a great way of ensuring that our high quality of care is maintained within our services, and our rating is evidence of our commitment to making this happen.

As visits to services are no longer possible, the CQC had to develop a new way of maintaining contact with services and ensuring they are operating at a safe level.

Therefore, they introduced the Emergency Support Framework on the 4th May 2020, as a new way of ensuring that health and social care services are complying with regulations throughout the pandemic.

In such extraordinary circumstances, it has never been more important for healthcare providers to ensure the safety of their service users, and for the CQC to be confident in the delivery of services now and as we continue dealing with Covid-19 – the new normal.

This new framework was introduced to provide the CQC with reassurance that quality and safety is being maintained.

The Emergency Support Framework takes the shape of a phone call between the local CQC inspector and the registered manager of a service. In this call, 4 assessment areas are covered:

  • Safe Care and Treatment
  • Staffing Arrangements
  • Protection from Abuse
  • Assurance Processes, Monitoring and Risk Management.

These calls are not inspections, and are not rated, but simply a method for CQC inspectors to feel assured that services are operating safely during the pandemic.

There are 37 registered managers across 41 locations at Virgin Care, all of whom can confidently articulate and demonstrate how our services are operating at the required safety level.

Furthermore, we continued to introduce various other measures to help our services continue to operate safely and effectively throughout the pandemic.

We implemented a structured National Incident Control Team, where members were allocated either Gold, Silver or Bronze status, each status with designated roles and objectives in our coordinated response to Covid-19.

Those holding Gold command were responsible for the overarching coordination of the national Virgin Care response to COVID 19, keeping services running safely, keeping colleagues safe, maintaining corporate viability and communicating effectively.

Known as the NICT, this structure allowed us to effectively coordinate our response and prepare our services to deliver care in a new and more efficient way in line with the unexpected circumstances. This in turn meant our services were equipped to manage the impacts of the pandemic and show the CQC inspectors in the Emergency Support Framework calls how we had adapted to meet the requirements.

More specifically, changes we made in our services included the introduction of virtual consultations in place of face-to-face ones. We continued to provide support to our service users through secure one-to-one video appointments from health visitors, paediatricians, family support workers and school nurses. You can read more about the introduction of video consultations here.

As well as utilising technology to continue delivering high quality services, we also produced guidance on infection prevention and control, PPE usage and social distancing in the workplace as many start to return to work. You can read more about how we have continued to deliver our services during the pandemic here.

Since July, 4 of our services have had their Engagement and Support call at the beginning of July, as part of the Covid-19 Emergency Support Framework.

It was determined that all of the services were successfully managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and meeting all the required regulations and assessment areas.

One of the services was St Luke’s Health Centre, where registered manager Lorna Galforg was able to tell the inspector how St Luke’s has been working and how it has adapted to meet the needs of staff and patients, and how the service has been well-led through the pandemic.

This is just one example of success during challenging times, in the last year we have had several incredible outcomes from CQC inspections at our services in West Lancashire and Essex, click on the links to have a read!

Adapting our ways of working has been challenging, but we are proud to say that our service users have continued to experience high quality care, as we take all the precautions necessary to make our services as safe as they can be.

Registered managers have worked incredibly hard to demonstrate through a phone call the effectiveness of these precautions, and with great success.

It has and always will be Virgin Care’s priority to ensure that we are delivering high quality care to our patients and service users.

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