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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Practice accreditation is more than just a 'tick box' exercise

GP practices should be aiming to provide the best service they possibly can, and practice accreditation can help them do this says the RCGP's Professor Nigel Sparrow

All practices in England and Wales will soon have to register with the Care Quality Commission  and to confirm that they meet the essential standards set by the CQC. But is ‘good enough' all that we should do?

All practices strive to improve the services that we offer to patients and simply demonstrating that we comply with basic safety standards does not recognise the valuable and innovative work that we do in our practices to address the needs of our patients in our local communities.

The CQC standards are very broad and divided into six areas designed to satisfy the Health and Social Care Act 2008, which governs the activities of any organization providing health and adult social care: 

  1. Involvement and information
  2. Personalised care, treatment and support
  3. Safeguarding and safety
  4. Suitability of staffing
  5. Quality and management
  6. Suitability of management

But simply demonstrating compliance with CQC standards does not do justice to the fantastic work that we do in general practice that results in UK general practice being the envy of the world.

The RCGP have been working on a system of practice accreditation (PA) for some years and is now being launched. The RCGP scheme not only covers the essential standards but also encourages and recognises quality improvement.

PA offers practices the opportunity to not only demonstrate the quality of the organisation but also encourages and facilitates further development and improvement.

PA links closely with the Quality Practice Award. The college will provide a web based resource for practices to collect and store their information and so will provide a seamless system for quality improvement.

PA recognises and rewards good practice. The college has often been accused of being elitist, but PA is achievable by most practices and will also help practices to further improve rather than being yet another ‘tick box' exercise.

So why should we do PA?

PA is a recognition of the focus and dedication to on-going quality improvement within a practice. A practice that has achieved accredited status will have demonstrated that quality improvement is on-going and continuous

By achieving PA a practice can display the RCGP Practice Accreditation certificate as a stamp of quality assurance.

PA has been refined and piloted. So what does a practice get out of PA?

  • Provides a framework for the improvement of patient safety, experience and the effectiveness of care
  • Ensures GP practices have robust systems and procedures to demonstrate compliance with CQC registration requirements
  • Encourages on-going development of the whole practice team
  • Provides a shared learning experience in a locality

The criteria for RCGP practice accreditation were developed in partnership with the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at the University of Manchester, and in collaboration with the BMA, Royal College of Nursing, Care Quality Commission, Department of Health, NHS Confederation Primary Care Trusts and patient groups.

The standards reflect key aspects of primary care, particularly the organisational systems and processes that ensure delivery of safe and quality care, facilitate on-going team development and recognise the contribution to quality improvement that can be made by the whole practice team.

PA has been designed to assess a wide range of aspects of practice systems and performance, covering the following six domains: health inequalities and health promotion; practice management; premises, records, equipment, devices and medicines management; practice teams; learning organisation; and patient and carer experience, involvement and responsiveness.

Practices then submit their supporting information using a web based tool and an online assessment is made. Practices are then given the opportunity to have a developmental visit and quality improvement feedback.

Professor Nigel Sparrow is a GP in Nottingham and chair of the RCGP Professional Development Board

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