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MPs back concerns about NHS watchdogs’ confused roles

By Vivienne Russell | 5 March 2013

The parallel roles of Monitor and the Care Quality Commission are easily confused, creating gaps in NHS regulation, MPs warned today.

Commenting after Monitor’s annual accountability hearing, the Commons health select committee reiterated concerns about the sometimes unclear roles of the two watchdogs. The issue was highlighted in last month’s report by Robert Francis, chair of the public inquiry into care failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which was critical of the spilt between the regulators.

Speaking today, health committee chair Stephen Dorrell said: ‘We are concerned that the overlapping remits of Monitor and the CQC have caused problems that need to be addressed quickly.’

He cited serious failings in maternity care at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, which emerged after it had been authorised as a foundation trust by Monitor.

The committee’s assessment of Monitor’s new powers, granted under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, found them to be ‘profoundly unsatisfactory’ in terms of the regulation of foundation trusts.

Under the changes, Monitor will license foundation trusts as part of its new remit to license all NHS providers. Any trusts granted foundation status after April 1 2013 would therefore be licensed rather than be given Terms of Authorisation as is currently the case.

The powers conferred by the legislation do not ‘provide an adequate basis for [Monitor] to meet the expectations of Parliament and public that it will provide effective ongoing oversight of the operation of foundation trusts’, the MPs said.

Monitor’s role in relation to competition in the NHS also remained unclear, the committee added. It called for urgent clarification on the roles of Monitor and the Competition Commission in health and care markets.

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