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GPs to face surprise spot-checks from Care Quality Commission

By Nigel Praities

GP practices are to face unannounced spot-checks from the new health and social care regulator, Pulse can reveal.

Baroness Barbara Young, chair of the Care Quality Commission, said plans were underway to extend lightning checks, in line with moves in hospitals which she admitted had already given secondary care bosses the shock of their lives.

Practices face checks on cleanliness, quality of prescribing and information governance procedures, among a range of other powerful CQC measures, with any practice which refuses to allow the inspectors in facing being fined.

The Baroness - speaking at the NHS Alliance Conference in Manchester– said the CQC was developing an ‘absolutely new form of inspection' looking at how services interact.

‘We're not going to do it in the same way as it's been done in the past, we're developing an absolutely new form of inspection. It will look at data and talk to users, it will look at complaints, it will talk to commissioners and service providers.

‘We did an [unannounced] inspection recently at a major teaching hospital. I said to the receptionist on the front desk could you tell your chief executive that the Care Quality Commission has arrived.

‘The poor chief executive came down, and as he walked across the front hall and spotted me I thought, this must be the worst day of this guy's life,' she said.

GPs will come under the powers of the CQC from April 2012 and an indication of what is in store came from the Airedale Trust, a hospital trust which described the unannounced inspections as ‘extremely thorough', with a representative of the CQC and a specialist nurse inspecting dust on high shelves, the back of store cupboards and unzipping mattress covers to look for ‘ingressed stains'.

Dr Tom Frewin, a GP and LMC member in Avon, said: ‘We have lost the plot a bit. What checks are they doing that other people haven't done? We already have appraisals and revalidation. This is just another layer of bureaucracy.'

But other GPs are less concerned. Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, said: ‘The Baroness would be very welcome here, we have nothing to hide.'

‘I just hope it would be in a manner that would not disrupt or delay the care of patients, and she would have a good understanding of general practice,' he said.

A spokesperson from the CQC said it was still developing its methodology for regulating GPs, but expected to conduct a ‘small number' of unannounced spot-checks on practices as part of its scheduled programme of inspections.

Baroness Barbara Young has already conducted surprise inspections of hospital trusts Baroness Barbara Young has already conducted surprise inspections of hospital trusts

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