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Intelligent Monitoring? Assessing the ability of the Care Quality Commission's statistical surveillance tool to predict quality and prioritise NHS hospital inspections
  1. Alex Griffiths1,
  2. Anne-Laure Beaussier2,
  3. David Demeritt2,
  4. Henry Rothstein2
  1. 1School of Management & Business, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Geography, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Alex Griffiths, School of Management & Business, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK; Alexander.Griffiths{at}


Background The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is responsible for ensuring the quality of the health and social care delivered by more than 30 000 registered providers in England. With only limited resources for conducting on-site inspections, the CQC has used statistical surveillance tools to help it identify which providers it should prioritise for inspection. In the face of planned funding cuts, the CQC plans to put more reliance on statistical surveillance tools to assess risks to quality and prioritise inspections accordingly.

Objective To evaluate the ability of the CQC's latest surveillance tool, Intelligent Monitoring (IM), to predict the quality of care provided by National Health Service (NHS) hospital trusts so that those at greatest risk of providing poor-quality care can be identified and targeted for inspection.

Methods The predictive ability of the IM tool is evaluated through regression analyses and χ2 testing of the relationship between the quantitative risk score generated by the IM tool and the subsequent quality rating awarded following detailed on-site inspection by large expert teams of inspectors.

Results First, the continuous risk scores generated by the CQC's IM statistical surveillance tool cannot predict inspection-based quality ratings of NHS hospital trusts (OR 0.38 (0.14 to 1.05) for Outstanding/Good, OR 0.94 (0.80 to −1.10) for Good/Requires improvement, and OR 0.90 (0.76 to 1.07) for Requires improvement/Inadequate). Second, the risk scores cannot be used more simply to distinguish the trusts performing poorly—those subsequently rated either ‘Requires improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’—from the trusts performing well—those subsequently rated either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ (OR 1.07 (0.91 to 1.26)). Classifying CQC's risk bandings 1-3 as high risk and 4-6 as low risk, 11 of the high risk trusts were performing well and 43 of the low risk trusts were performing poorly, resulting in an overall accuracy rate of 47.6%. Third, the risk scores cannot be used even more simply to distinguish the worst performing trusts—those subsequently rated ‘Inadequate’—from the remaining, better performing trusts (OR 1.11 (0.94 to 1.32)). Classifying CQC's risk banding 1 as high risk and 2-6 as low risk, the highest overall accuracy rate of 72.8% was achieved, but still only 6 of the 13 Inadequate trusts were correctly classified as being high risk.

Conclusions Since the IM statistical surveillance tool cannot predict the outcome of NHS hospital trust inspections, it cannot be used for prioritisation. A new approach to inspection planning is therefore required.

  • Quality improvement methodologies
  • Risk management
  • Quality measurement
  • Performance measures
  • Health policy

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  • Contributors AG co-conceived the study, sourced the data, undertook the statistical analyses and co-wrote the initial manuscript. HR co-conceived the study and co-wrote the initial manuscript with DD who subsequently helped restructure the statistical analysis and revise the manuscript. A-LB provided original insight based on her own research into healthcare regulation and, along with AG, DD and HR, contributed to and approved the final manuscript. AG is the study's guarantor. This study was undertaken by AG, A-LB, DD and HR in their personal capacities. The opinions expressed in this article are the authors' own and do not reflect the view of CQC.

  • Funding Economic and Social Research Council (ES/K006169/1).

  • Competing interests AG reports part-time employment with the Care Quality Commission (though the work was conceived, conducted and authored with complete independence) and funding from the ESRC and Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education during the conduct of the study for his doctoral research; DD, HR and A-LB report a grant from the ESRC (detailed above) during the conduct of the study.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The Intelligent Monitoring risk scores and CQC's inspection ratings are public data.

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