Actions speak louder than words. In March this year, this government passed the Deregulation Act. Section 108 requires regulatory bodies “to have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth”. They must exercise their functions in a way which ensures “regulatory action is taken only when it is needed and any action taken is proportionate”. Some MPs proposed making an exemption from this duty for bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, which is responsible for overseeing hospitals, care homes and care in people’s own homes. The government did not accept this amendment to the Bill.
Draft guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, for “non-economic Regulators: duty to have regard for growth”, published in January 2014, says, “ Those exercising regulatory functions should consider the economic impact their actions are likely to have on individual businesses and where appropriate, industry sectors.” It adds, “the growth duty does not automatically take precedence over, or supplant, existing duties held by regulators.”
Anyone reassured by that last line? So the government says that if the Care Quality Commission needs to take action to close a home where residents are neglected or unsafe, they should take into account the effect on the business running a home but it isn’t automatic that they should give precedence to the effect on the business. Not automatic? They should never give precedence to the effect on business.
And think of the implications for all the private companies now involved in the NHS.
I think most of us, as we consider the care we, or friends or family will receive in the future want the organisations which oversee social care and health to have as their clear and only priority the well-being of people who use services, not the well-being of businesses. This government clearly sees things differently.