In the last few days the Care Quality Commission report on Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospital Trust has been published, showing improvement in a number of areas compared to last year. This is good news for many of the 8000 people who work for the Trust and for the patients who are cared for in the two Hospitals. Although the immediate focus of the Trust is on the communities of Brighton & Hove and Haywards Heath, both hospitals have a huge impact on the rest of Sussex. It is clearly disappointing that the Trust is still deemed to be inadequate, but the report shows many areas of improvement and some work of the Trust is now judged to be outstanding. This report is not the only work that the CQC has carried out in Sussex recently, last month the Brighton Housing Trust inspection was published indicating that the charity is ‘Outstanding’ which is a fantastic endorsement for the hard work of many people in the charity who like NHS workers, work on behalf of all of us. Perhaps because it is the summer and Schools and Pre Schools are awaiting a new intake, many have chosen to publish their OFSTED rating on banners outside the buildings concerned. In the light of this it would be easy to assume that only organisations that care for, or educate people get assessed by inspectors. However in all sorts of settings, inspectors and auditors help to shine a spotlight on businesses, charities and public sector agencies that operate in our communities. At the most extreme ends of the spectrum the best in many sectors are nominated for awards and win plaudits such as the Stonewall awards and various awards organised by this newspaper. At the other end the worst are placed in special measures and may even be closed down for their failings. Unfortunately no inspection is perfect and the damage done by a poor inspection which misjudges the setting can be catstrophic for the users and workers in that organisation. Despite this background many businesses voluntarily place themselves into a spotlight by applying for ISO9001 accreditation which requires the business to explain its processes and procedures to outside eyes and ears, and then demonstrate that they comply with these standards each year. The same is true in the charitable sector where quality marks such as PQASSO are sought after. Another quality mark available to businesses and charities is Investors In People whose assessors spend many hours interviewing employees, as well as those who benefit from the business or service to find out how the organisation operates and measures this against their business plan. Having these awards can significantly improve the capability of the organisation to win contracts and welcome new customers across their threshold so they can reap a significant reward for those who take the time and spend the money to achieve them. They also help to ensure that the organisations stay on course which is a very positive thing.
It is fascinating that so many organisations such as businesses, charities and public sector bodies such as the Police and Prison Service and others mentioned earlier are inspected and assessed each year or so. Yet there is one important and noticeable omission. The missing group are those who legislate for the others to have inspections and they are people who have the power to close down or sack the senior workers in bodies such as the NHS or Social Care organisations. Our Governmental structures operate currently on five levels, soon to be reduced to four. We have the European Parliament (soon to be lost), the National and UK Parliaments, County Councils, District or Borough Councils and then Parish or Town Councils. The only layer of these decision makers that is able or expected to attain quality status is the one closest to people. The Quality Council accreditation is only currently open to Town or Parish Councils, and yet there is a high level of expectation that they will seek such a result. Yet Councils operating at Borough or District and County levels do not get assessed for their effectiveness. Perhaps most importantly for some of us, the quality of leadership and decision making in our Parliament is entirely absent from external scrutiny. After all Parliament has the power to scrutinise almost any other agency or entity in the nation, but they are not open to any form of scrutiny themselves apart from the opportunity every five years for us to elect or reject our MP. Even this decision is based entirely on subjective judgement; there is no official form of objective analysis of how our MPs or Parties in Government perform. This is clearly an oversight which needs to be addressed!