New Chief Inspector of Hospitals wants patients to join assessment teams

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals, has called for hundreds of NHS patients to join inspection teams. Photo: PA

"I want to start building a small army," says the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

It will be an army of hospital inspectors and they will be made up of doctors, nurses AND patients. Each hospital inspection could include half a dozen of each.

Professor Sir Mike Richards is that Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

Although he is part of the heavily criticised Care Quality Commission he admits his new role is proof that the CQC's old inspection regime wasn't working.

"If we thought the CQC had been perfect then we wouldn't be changing it," he says.

"We're changing it because we recognised it was flawed."

His team will start inspecting hospitals next month. Inspections will take at least a couple of days, will cover the core hospital functions and will include a 'town hall' style meeting for local people to get involved.

The initial inspections at each hospital will be announced in advance. After that the Inspectors can make unannounced trips which can be at night or at the weekend.

They intend to get through the first 18 by Christmas. Those 18 are a mix of those thought to be low, medium and high risk. None of them will be graded. But after that, once the system is bedded in, hospitals will be rated as 'outstanding', 'good', 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate'.

If they're inadequate they'll have to agree a plan of action. At worst, departments could be closed.

The 14 worst hospitals as revealed by the Keogh Review this week will be excluded on the basis that Keogh has inspected them all recently.

The aim is to inspect all 161 hospital trusts in England by the end of 2015.

"We won't get everything right from the outset, I'm absolutely sure about that," says Sir Mike, "What we will be is open."

And, he adds: "My job is to put the patient at the heart of this."