Using technology to transform regulation and keep communities safe

A presentation by Mark Sutton – Chief Digital Officer, Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England, providing a rating and quality of safety for around 50,000 service providers under its remit. “This is an incredible feat,” Mark noted during his speaker session at Objective’s RegTech for Government event.

“But we’re still learning 14 years later, as many regulators are.”

Mark summarises the CQC journey so far and how changing circumstances and organisational cultures have led to a data-rich, digitally driven future.

CQC, like many other organisations, was challenged with how to streamline its existing processes and procedures to stay in step with the way healthcare is evolving. For each rating given to a service provider, a volume of work including inspections, data analysis and lengthy reports were required to ensure provider was offering safe healthcare and that CQC’s regulatory responsibilities were met.

However, demand and requirements changed:

  • Service providers wanted to have more practical, granular information to help them improve;
  • The public expected to easily and quickly compare providers; and
  • CQC needed to do more with less resource, while still regulating as we always have and with new powers given to regulate across systems and local authorities.

CQC quickly identified that technology could be a significant enabler in response to these challenges and needs.

Constructing a strategic pivot

CQC is transforming to become a ‘Smarter Regulator’ with technology at the heart of improving the regulatory experience for providers and giving a more up to date picture of quality and safety to the public.

CQC is also building new data and insight capability to enable it to become an insight-driven organisation, while still putting people and communities at the heart of its regulatory approach. This means using data to identify where greatest risk is to automate, streamline and target those areas to accelerate improvements and better achieve their goals.

Ensuring consistency during Covid

“The pandemic meant that CQC staff had to think differently about how we regulated services to keep people safe,” Mark confirmed.

Subsequently, the team put in place an emergency support framework which provided consistency and made sure they still regulated at all stages during the pandemic. They put in place measures like phone calls with providers to allow them to carry on regulating and working with services directly. 

This allowed for an increasing appetite and appreciation from staff for how they could use technology to enhance the way they regulate.

"We want to empower people to make better decisions and have more time to help keep people safe. Data, automation, etc. are words people often fear... we're getting people to love and embrace the change."

Mark Sutton

Chief Digital Officer, Care Quality Commission

Flipping from the fear to the love

But it’s not just about introducing technology. It’s about changing how people think as well. As Mark noted: “It’s very challenging – you’re changing people, tech and processes.”

Mark reflected on the people aspect of the changes, noting that it had meant supporting the “flip from fear to love”.

“We want to empower people to make better decisions and have more time to help keep people safe. Data, automation, etc. are words people often fear. That’s why the technology is the easy bit, but we know the hard part is getting people to love and embrace the change.”

Mark’s summarised three key lessons to the audience:

  1. We are starting small and we are building on what we learn along the way
  2. Focus around the emotions – we are concentrating on what our staff care about most – keeping people safe
  3. Empower and enable – we’re supporting our people who love what they do, do it better with technology
  • This presentation was delivered at Objective’s RegTech for Government event. To find out more, visit the event recap page, including key takeaways and resources

Speaker information

Mark is currently the executive director for Technology, Data & Insight at the Care Quality Commission. 

He has over 20 years of senior IT leadership and transformation experience across a broad range of industries, including financial services, insurance, retail, healthcare and not-for-profit.