Failing care regulator to get tough new powers

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Meanwhile, figures show four in 10 care homes have not been inspected by the watchdog since Covid erupted. Care minister Helen Whately, herself banned from seeing her ex-NHS GP mother in intensive care, is deciding how to give the CQC potency.

She said: “One of the things I am looking at is do we need to give the CQC more powers? I will work out whether that is the best way.

“What I want to do is fix a problem that clearly needs fixing.”

The breakthrough comes as we approach 1,000 days since the first national lockdown began and after the Daily Express highlighted the desperate plight of those locked out.

Mrs Whately said she was considering new laws to force care homes and hospitals to open up, as current rules act only as guidance.

Labour grandee Dame Harriet Harman, chair of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, said the CQC was “failing to protect the rights of relatives”.

She added: “Neither the Care Quality Commission, who are supposed to be the regulator, nor the Government, can even be bothered to collect the data which would expose the scale of denial of visits.”

Campaign groups have accused the CQC of sitting on its hands in the pandemic.

In a letter to the watchdog, the Relatives & Residents Association said: “At a time of unprecedented challenges and sustained infringements on rights, CQC retreated to the sidelines. This is when older people using care services needed it most.”

It said the elderly “have been neglected by the very system designed to protect their rights”.

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