Over the top regulation

By Leon A Smith
May 18, 2012

As with so many aspects of our lives today the care sector is subject to very significant regulation. Nightingale House is now part of the Nightingale Hammerson charity and is regulated by a number of different authorities – the prime authority/regulator for the sector being the Care Quality Commission.

There are however a number of other regulatory bodies to whom we are accountable. Regulation is vital. The CQC is vital. Standards must be maintained across the country in order to ensure the well being and the very best interests of those vulnerable adults for whom we care.

There is however regulation and then there is over-the-top regulation. We recently had the pleasure of an inspection by an “inspector” from the Water Authority. Four days were spent at Nightingale inspecting every tap, bathroom, shower room, kitchen, food servery areas, etc, etc. As a consequence of that visit we then received an extremely lengthy report with a very long list of requirements which in turn have very significant financial implications for us. Some of the requirements were reasonable and acceptable. Other requirements were unreasonable. Therefore as any sensible people would do, we invited the Water Authority to come in and have a logical discussion about this matter. The measures which were being required of us were works that we were being asked to carry out in order to comply with Water Safety Regulations. Some of these in turn impacted very negatively upon our ability to care for our residents – such as the ability to be able to assist with showering – I wont go into too many other details here. Suffice to say we had an unsatisfactory meeting.

Regulations and rules are there to be adhered to. The fact that our care staff would then have practical difficulties in assisting residents as a result of this was of no relevance and/or interest to the inspector. In other words it was our problem. We were not therefore dealing with reasonable people with whom we could have a dialogue to try and explore a suitable solution and/or compromise - we were dealing with the “water police”. One hesitates to use the word “jobs worth” and one hesitates to make comparisons with traffic wardens who feel that they are legally if not morally able to issue a parking ticket if one millimetre of tyre is touching on a white line albeit when one is parked in a kosher parking bay.

Rules, laws, regulations byelaws are all essential if we are to maintain and live in an orderly society. But of course it is a question of degree. Perhaps we need a regulator to regulate the regulatory authorities to ensure that they are acting in a manner that does not interfere with people who are trying to do their own important job.

Following the coalition government’s proposed bonfire of the Quango’s
I don’t really think that we’re going to get a regulator’s regulator – but you do take my point? There must be a place somewhere in our society for commonsense, pragmatism and sensible communication. One lives in hope.


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