Watchdog poised to call for inspection of every health service in Northamptonshire

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Every NHS body and social services department in Northamptonshire could be inspected in the wake of an unfavourable audit of the county’s mental health services.

The watchdog Healthwatch Northamptonshire has raised the possibility of the drastic measure because of last week’s Care Quality Commission report on NHS Northamptonshire Healthcare, which was rated ‘requires improvement’.

Along with Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital, the mental health trust is now the third health organisation in Northamptonshire to be given the rating in 18 months.

Healthwatch Northamptonshire says it is now considering whether inspectors should examine the county’s health services from top to bottom.

A spokesman said: “The CQC will soon be testing out an approach to inspect the whole health and social care system in a local area.

“The Healthwatch Northamptonshire Board will be considering at its next meeting - on October 1 - whether or not to call upon the CQC to undertake such a whole system inspection across Northamptonshire.”

Critics of the ‘whole area’ inspections have pointed out that, with regular audits in place already, yet another intensive period of scrutiny could distract doctors nurses and social workers from their day-to-day work.

Any large-scale inspection may include NHS Nene (which distributes Government health funds), Northamptonshire County Council, home care and GP surgeries.

Care homes would also come under scrutiny, 27 of which are currently rated as ‘requires improvement’ following a total of 68 inspections so far in the county.

The spokesman said that Healthwatch may also submit its own recommendations on “how services for people in Northamptonshire can move from

‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ and then to ‘outstanding’”.

He added: “The people of Northamptonshire deserve the best possible care and services.”

In response, Angela Hillery, chief executive of NHFT, said: “We note Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s comments in regards to all three health providers in the county receiving ratings of “requires improvement” from recent CQC inspections and their consideration of calling upon the CQC to undertake a whole inspection of all care providers in the county.

“At NHFT, it is important to us that we continue to work through our action plan to address the areas for improvement as rated in our CQC report. We are confident that we are responding to all concerns raised by the CQC following their inspection visit in February 2015.”