Coronavirus & “ESF” - What should providers expect when “an inspector calls”?

Although the CQC have yet to resume routine inspections of care homes across the Country, the recent introduction of the Emergency Support Framework (ESF) has enabled them to keep a close eye on providers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Essentially, under this framework, the CQC use information already in their possession, along with that provided by any third party (i.e. family members and Local Authorities), in order to decide whether there is a need to contact providers for a “supportive conversation”. Any such contact will take place by telephone or through Microsoft Teams. Once arranged, regional inspectors will aim to speak with Home Managers for approximately 1 hour in order to establish how they are coping during the pandemic. In doing so, this conversation will focus on the following areas;

  • safe care and treatment
  • staffing arrangements
  • protection from abuse
  • assurance processes and risk management.

Although inspectors will use this information to establish whether a provider is “managing” or “needs support”, the CQC have been quick to point out that such conversations do not amount to a formal inspection and, as such, the outcome of any such conversations will not be published online.

Should providers be wary of this framework?

Although the creation of the “ESF” has clearly been done with the best intentions of residents and the sector in mind, there is a real danger that providers could be lulled into a false sense of security by the perceived informality of any such call. Whilst the CQC have stated that providers do not need to prepare for these calls, the reality is that no such conversation could ever be deemed as informal, as any information obtained by the CQC could trigger a full inspection of the service (the results of which would be published online) and, in more extreme circumstances, a criminal investigation and/or attempt to close a care home altogether where there are allegations of “unsafe or poor care”. Where the latter is concerned, recent statistics have already revealed a 55% increase in calls to the CQC from workers within the profession who have raised concerns about their own safety and that of residents. 25% of these calls related to a lack of PPE and 32% related to infection control and concerns around how social distancing was being practiced. This, coupled with the unhelpful comments made by the Prime Minister only a couple of days ago, may well place an increasing amount of pressure on the CQC to take a more robust approach against providers as we continue through this pandemic.

What should providers do to protect themselves? 

Home Mangers need to be mindful of the potential ramifications following a call with the CQC and, in order to prepare for this, they should be asked to undertake the following;

  • Consider the specific questions which inspectors will cover during a “supportive call”. These have been published by the CQC and are readily accessible online
  • Managers should be encouraged to prepare a dummy file containing documents which they can refer to and, if asked, disclose to the CQC to support their answers
  • Managers should role play their response to questions so that they are better prepared
  • Following a call with the CQC, inspectors should send providers a record of their conversation in PDF form. Managers must check the accuracy of this record immediately and raise any concerns with the inspector in writing

Contact our Compliance & Regulatory team today if you have any queries about ESF, remaining compliant during the pandemic, or in circumstances where you wish to challenge a rating or any other enforcement action taken by the CQC.

If you would like to talk through the consequences for your business, please email us and one of our team will get in touch.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.