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Alex blasts runaway rise in healthcare inspection fees

Vital health funds which should be targeted at patients on Teesside are being swallowed up in inspection fees, Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North has warned, because the Government has slashed funding to their inspectors and left GP practices and Health Trusts to shoulder the costs.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have been told they must cover their costs, but this will see Teesside’s healthcare providers burdened with potentially ruinous rises in inspection fees that could hamper health services. One NHS Trust is facing an increase of 64.5 per cent this year alone.

The CQC consulted on proposed changes to fees in late-2015, with responses expressing a strong preference for full cost recovery to be achieved over four years. However, with the Government taking the decision to slash the funding available for the CQC, the Commission has taken the decision to push ahead with a model that will see full cost recovery within an accelerated two year period.

Under the new fee structure, single-location GPs with 5,001-10,000 patients will be hit with a more-than-threefold fee increase. Meanwhile, NHS Trusts with incomes between £125 million and £225 million will feel the brunt of a 75 per cent fee increase, rising from £78,208 in 2015/16 to £136,864 in 2016/17. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will be landed with a bill for £187,515 in 2016/17, including the additional fee incurred by being located on two separate sites.

Alex said:

“I am amazed that the Government are failing to address the inspection issues properly. We’re seeing this huge ramping-up in fees to fund often dozens of inspectors to stay in expensive hotels and eat out at taxpayers’ expense. And there appear to be no controls, with the Government abdicating responsibility.

“At a time when NHS Trusts are struggling to stay afloat financially, with hospitals £2.3 billion in the red after the first nine months of 2015/16, it beggars belief that healthcare providers are being burdened with these runaway increases. Our very own Trust will see the charges it incurs rise by almost two-thirds, with a proportion of this sum resulting from the Government’s eventual decision to renege on promises to deliver a new hospital and provide high quality healthcare services for the region from a single site.

“David Cameron and his minsters have repeatedly shown they are unable to run our NHS. With junior doctors taking industrial action on the Tories’ watch, and with treatment targets being missed time and again, the Government’s focus is now shifting to ramping up financial pressure. This will make it impossible to sustain safe staffing levels and will put patient safety in real danger.

“The CQC has completely disregarded its own consultation on the best way to move forward, undermining its credibility in the process and further weakening staff morale following significant salary cuts. By imposing such increases carte blanche, they have also implicitly ruled out the possibility of streamlining the inspection process to make it more efficient, running completely counter to promises made by the Tories prior to last year’s election.”