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GPs to be given two weeks' notice before a CQC inspection

Exclusive GP practices will be given two weeks’ notice - instead of 48 hours - before a CQC inspection under major changes to the way visits are carried out from April, Pulse has learned.

Chief inspector of primary care Professor Steve Field said that the change heralds a ‘new approach’ in the way the CQC works with GP practices, aiming to support them to raise standards.

The current 48-hour notice period proved controversial when it was announced in November 2012, with the CQC reasoning that it prevented practices from ‘overpreparing’, leading to practices having to hire extra staff so they are sufficiently prepared.

However, the regulator has also reserved the right for unannounced inspections to practices identified as being at-risk.

Professor Field outlined the new inspection regime earlier this year, including greater use of specialist inspectors, questions on how compassionate the care provided is and Ofsted-style ratings, which will begin to be published from October.

The CQC will announce this week the first tranche of 12 CCG areas where practices will be inspected and Pulse has also learnt that the controversial policy of 48-hours’ notice currently given to practices will be ditched in favour of giving two day’s notice.

A CQC statement said: ‘This week the CQC will be sending out letters to 12 CCG areas chosen to form part of the first wave of new GP inspections, they have been chosen at random for a representative geographical spread.

‘CCGs are being given at least four weeks advance notice that their area has been selected and GP practices in those areas will have at least two weeks’ notice of an inspection as opposed to the previous 48 hours, CQC reserve the right however to inspect unannounced at any time where a practice is identified as a risk. These inspections will only include practices that have not yet been visited by the CQC.’

Professor Field said: ‘This first wave of the new style inspection heralds a new approach that’s not about catching people out but about working with and supporting general medical practice. We will be learning on these inspections and genuinely want feedback on our approach which will start in earnest in October when we will also begin to rate practices.’

Dr John Hughes, the GPC member for Manchester, Salford, Trafford and Stockport, said that the longer notice would give practices more time to prepare.

He said: ‘It is slightly helpful in that it gives practices time to prepare well with the interruption of a major visit, and they can get locum cover for surgeries. But it doesn’t address the fundamental problem in that there is still a total lack of clarity about what standards and criteria the inspectors are using.’

Readers' comments (19)

  • Re CQC
    ;
    I don't understand why there should be any notice given before inspection.

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  • Because surgery will have to have people who can show them around, answer questions and allow entry into the rooms to be inspected? Having patients at the same time would make it difficult.

    Stop being pedantic. Some of us wish we have enough time to look at every little clause CQC lists but are too busy looking after our patients from 8am to well past 6:30pm.

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  • I don't understand why there should be any notice given before inspection.
    --------
    Take out and the use of CQC inspections to patient care becomes obvious.

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  • I don't understand why there should be any notice given before inspection.
    --------
    Take out 'notice given before' and the use of CQC inspections to patient care becomes obvious.

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  • So 50 weeks a year will be business as usual, then 2 weeks to dust down the shop. Not sure how this regime is supposed to promote year round quality and continuous improvement ...

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  • "Not sure how this regime is supposed to promote year round quality and continuous improvement ..."

    Do you think unannounced CQC inspections or the current 48h arrangement promote your round quality? In fact, do you really think they are about patient care?

    Your naïvety has no bounds....

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  • Agree with first anonymous 12 March, second anonymous trying to win argument by insults and is out of order.
    Regulation + year round compliance + spot inspections are about an independent check of standards and works for every other regulated industry.
    It has become common practice to rush to produce "compliance evidence" in March and go on holiday in April, when you should be able to demonstrate this any time at any inspection.
    If you already have year round quality, you have nothing to fear and need no preparation for a visit.

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  • We have recently had a CQC inspection after 48 hrs notice, and passed with no recomendations for change. This produced a significant stress level in stafff and doctors while anticipating this new process. The Ofsted process for teachers was changed to reduce the notice period as the stress levels the warning period caused was causing significant health problems for teachers involved, with little evidence of educational benefit. Will a 2 week pressure period prove the final straw for our already stressed practice managers? 2 days did allow us to contact patient participation group members to be present to meet the inspector which would not have happened with a spot inspection.

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  • Speaking from a practice which has already had a (generally successful) CQC inspection I think we feel that 48 hours notice is actually about right. It gives enough time to do some minor 'tweaking' but will not be long enough for a practice with serious underlying issues to rescue their situation - and indeed, why should they be able to?
    Our inspector was polite, helpful and realistic. They did their best to work around our commitments and we found that the impact on the practice was minimal. Overall, the inspection was certainly not the interrogation session that we were fearing and was a generally positive experience.
    That said, I really don't think CQC registration or inspections will do anything at all to improve patient care in the vast majority of practices and CQC subscriptions still feel like another hidden tax on General Practice!

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