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Independents' Day

Pulse 2019 review: An inspector continues to call

The CQC has admitted practices under pressure receive lower ratings… but refuses to take this into account. Allie Anderson reports

In March, the CQC’s new chief inspector of primary medical services took up the role. A GP herself, Dr Rosie Benneyworth knows first-hand the struggles the profession is facing.

A CQC report in October showed that the regulator was aware of how workload pressures affected their inspection ratings. The report concluded that a ‘large group of GP practices’ had received lower inspection ratings because of ‘ongoing capacity issues’.

So, with this in mind, it was hoped that Dr Benneyworth’s commitment to be a ‘critical friend’ to GPs would put the emphasis on ‘friend’, taking into account that problems with GP practices tended to be due to external factors, like recruitment and increasing demand.

Such a hope was soon extinguished later in October. In an interview with Pulse that month, she said inspectors would not loosen their approach to regulation.

‘We’re not going to be making any concessions,’ Dr Benneyworth affirmed. Instead, the watchdog would be looking at what practices are doing to ride the storm, with a sharper focus on collaborating with other local services to solve some of the problems faced by general practice.

She added that primary care networks (PCNs) are ‘a huge opportunity’ to do just that.

‘We know that practices are under huge demand and that’s making it very challenging,’ she commented.

‘But we are seeing different practices in different parts of the country really address those challenges by remodelling what they’re doing within their practice, working in conjunction with partner agencies across the local area, thinking about what their population needs are and how they can respond to those.’

While practices that are struggling look set to feel the force of the CQC’s heavy glare, the pressure is easing slightly on those that score highly. Surgeries with a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rating are being subject to visits as infrequently as once every five years, with an annual phone interview replacing the once-yearly inspection.

Dr Benneyworth said this was proving successful so far, and was ‘helping to build relationships between inspector and practice’.

On the other hand, the CQC wants to make it easier for patients to complain about healthcare services – a stance that will surely have the opposite effect.

High-quality patient care must not be compromised – no one can argue against that.

But given the apparent lack of empathy for struggling practices and over-burdened GPs, the CQC’s reputation might be less critical friend, and more outright critic.

Readers' comments (18)

  • I remained open-minded, "might as well hear what the other side has to say" until I hit this amazing statement: "...the CQC wants to make it easier for patients to complain..."
    So, the practice's complaints procedure, the CCG complaints manager, the NHSE complaints manager, the GMC, the courts of the land, the local MP, the citizens advice bureau, and a few "no win no fee" local cowboys are not enough.
    By the way, can someone tell me how I can complain against obnoxious, presumptuous and pompous CQC inspectors.

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  • To Sceptic, my guess would be at the feedback part of the inspection after you've had a lovely day with them all, peering into every nook and cranny, failing that to the lead Inspector whose e-mail you likely have.

    Personal experience however tells me its easier to find rocking horse shit and/or get an Inspection rating changed!

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  • Multiple jeopardy for GPs and the inspectors are almost untouchable. The system sucks. It aims for ideals without ideal staffing, training or funding. I think GPs are all under severe mental stress and workload and these turncoats are not helping. There sould be a rule that they do a minimum of 4-5 sessions too so their own rules can impact them too.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    High-quality patient care must not be compromised – no one can argue against that.

    more funding required
    retirement time bomb
    – no one can argue against that.

    Babylon at hand type services able to cherrypick the easiest patients
    – no one can argue against that.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    careful you'll become a meme
    – no one can argue against that.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    This sort off attitude is why people are eager to seek early retirement or avoid partnerships
    maybe some reflection is required
    or is this part of the plan

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  • when resources don't match the standards flouted "high quality patient care MUST be compromised"

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  • so an un elected and undemocratic operation oversees a population without redress for anything that they say or impose, regardless of the consequences of their actions, but expects those overseen to pay for their services and carry out all their whims. hmmmm. wonder what that might be called?

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  • The people who work for the “regulator” would be out of a cushy job if they weren’t critical. It’s not in their self interest not to be critical, despite all the evidence pointing to the government as the culprit in declining healthcare standards. People need to call BS on the “regulator” and their massive conflict of interest

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  • Ah! Rosie, Rosie. We had such high expectations of you!
    (just joking)

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