Much has been written about the worsening staffing crisis within the care sector. The impact of Brexit, lack of proper funding and mandatory vaccination are all having a devastating effect, with many care providers predicted to close their doors as they are unable to maintain safe levels of staff.

At the same time, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) continue to reveal the details of their new inspection strategy. As outlined in a detailed ebriefing by my colleague Lorna Kenyon, the CQC has promised to focus on risk. In a recent webinar to brief care providers, the care sector regulator made strongly worded comments that they would not be complicit in the provision of unsafe care and could make no allowance for care providers unable to recruit sufficient and safe numbers of staff.

That is reflected in the inspection outcomes we have seen since the start of the year. With almost every poor outcome in some way linked to staffing issues, from concerns about overstretched staff making mistakes, through criticism that high staff turnover results in a lack of continuity of care to negative ratings based on perceived failings to fully document objectively good quality care. What is even more striking is that rarely, if ever, do inspection reports make any concession to the challenges of the pandemic, or mention that providers are facing the worst staffing crisis in decades.

Of course, the CQC has a duty to highlight poor practice, but it also has a statutory obligation to act proportionately when carrying out its regulatory functions. Despite that obligation, proportionality is sadly missing in the CQC's new approach. Not only is that failing providers and the people they support but it risks making the crisis worse. The CQC has a unique position from which it can observe key trends in the sector and alert those with power to take action, including national and local government and ultimately the public. By failing to place their criticism of individual care providers in its proper context, the CQC perpetuates the myth that it is those care providers that hold sole responsibility.

Given that the same staffing related issues feature in almost every report, it is time the CQC began to highlight the wider contributory factors.

If everyone else can see it, why can’t the CQC?