Radical changes will be made to the way that hospitals are inspected in England, the newly appointed Chief Inspector of Hospitals has announced.
Professor Sir Mike Richards will introduce the changes by the end of next month.
Bigger inspection teams will be led by clinical experts and trained members of the public.
They will spend longer inspecting sites and cover all acute services including:
Acute medical and surgical pathways
Care for the frail elderly
End of life care
Richards will decide whether hospitals are rated as outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.
Where there are failures in care, the chief inspector will work with NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to ensure a clear programme is put in place to deal with the problems.
He said: “These new-style inspections will allow us to get a much more detailed picture of care in hospitals than has ever been possible before in England. Inspections will be supported by an improved method for identifying risks and with much more information direct from patients and their families, and hospital staff.
“Today I am issuing a call to action for clinicians and members of the public to join our inspection teams. We welcome people with a wide range of experience and expertise.”
The first hospitals to test the new inspection regime have been chosen because they represent the variation of care in hospitals in England.
The chosen 18 hospitals will be inspected over the next five months.
By the end of 2015 CQC will have inspected all acute hospitals in England.
Chair of the BMA Consultants Committee, Dr Paul Flynn, said: “We will need to look more closely at how the system will work but if we are to restore the public’s confidence in the NHS then any inspection system must take on board the views of those working at the heart of the service.
“However it must be recognised that hospitals are complex organisations and inspections must be able to deal with the broad range of services and type of care provided. The challenge will be to ensure inspections are not reduced to a simplistic measure.”
Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: "It is essential those hospitals deemed to have be high risk or failing get the right support at the earliest possible stage to avoid worsening standards.
"We need this new system to be comprehensive, without being overly burdensome. It is important the first tranche of inspections help iron out any creases in processes and design and any duplication of existing information that diverts valuable staff time and resources away from care.”
A chief inspector of primary care is expected to be appointed later this year.