Hospital inspectors spent four times their annual budget on hotels, travel and meals, an investigation has found.
Teams from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) spent £4.4 million on travel and subsistence in 2014/15 against budget of £1.1 million.
The CQC said the overspend was due to the fact the budget was based on a previous, lighter touch inspection regime.
Up to £80,000 was spent on accommodation during a single inspection.
In some cases, more than 100 inspectors attended one visit. In total, £921,279.98 was spent on hotels in 2014/15 for 36 inspections.
The biggest spending was for Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust, where 118 inspectors were accommodated at two hotels over five days for £80,837.
Hotel spend was over £50,000 for four other inspections: Imperial College Healthcare Trust; Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust; King’s College Hospitals Foundation Trust; and Lancashire Care Foundation Trust.
The most expensive on a per night basis was for the Imperial College inspection, where the CQC spent £239 a night accommodating inspectors at the four star Thistle Kensington Gardens hotel.
In other inspections, CQC staff stayed at Premier Inns, Holiday Inns, the Park Plaza and resort and spa hotels.
A statement from the CQC on the matter reads as follows:
“As CQC regulates health and adult social care services across England, it is necessary for its inspection teams to have to travel and, on occasion, to stay in overnight accommodation. CQC’s ‘new style’ inspections involve larger teams, including specialist inspectors, experts in the field, and members of the public who represent the views of people who use services. They last longer so that more time can be spent in observing the care that is being delivered, in speaking to both people who use services and health and social care professionals, and in feeding back initial findings to the providers so that improvements can be made quickly.”
The statement also indicates a determination to address the situation in future.
“This gives a much more in-depth and detailed assessment of the quality of care, which encourages learning and improvement and can help people make informed choices about their care. We are constantly refining and improving how we work, and we are committed to being an efficient and effective regulator. We regularly monitor and review our performance and impact and we report our findings and progress to our Board during sessions held in public, in the interests of openness and transparency.”