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CQC to search for patient feedback on GPs using Facebook and Twitter

The CQC will search for positive and negative comments about GP services on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to discover the ‘reality’ of the care that patients are receiving, said the regulator today.

Launching a document which lays out their strategy and purpose for the next three years in response to the report into the failings identified in the Francis Inquiry in Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust, the regulator said it wanted to ensure they were responding to patient concerns more effectively.

The report also said it would introduce a ‘more robust’ test for new primary care providers applying for registration, although a CQC spokesperson confirmed that GP practices that have already registered would not be affected by the new process.

It also said that a proposed chief inspector of primary and integrated care will look at patients’ experiences as they move between different services. Jeremy Hunt announced in February that he was considering plans for a chief inspector to provide an ‘expert view’ of primary care to mirror the appointment of chief inspectors for hospitals, to uphold standards and make the final call when a practice is failing.

As Pulse revealed last week, the report also said when inspecting providers, practices will be judged on five domains, with inspectors asking whether practices are safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive to people’s needs.

The CQC said it will develop new fundamental standards focusing on these five areas, although a ‘judgement’ element will be introduced to avoid ticking the box, but missing other factors.

They confirmed that the frequency of inspections will increase as the perceived risk of harm to patients increases. The regulator said it will also develop a series of ‘triggers’ which will allow it to predict future problems with services, and allow it make better decision about when, where and what to inspect.

The report also re-iterated a commitment to a better use of information, meaning information sources such as the ‘Friends and Family Test’  and reviews carried out by others will be used to inform their regulatory work.

The CQC strategy said: ‘We will make it easier for people to tell us about the reality of the care they receive and we will improve how we respond to and report on how their views and experiences have informed our work. We will focus on gathering the views of people in the most vulnerable circumstances.

‘We will search for both positive and negative comments on what is being said about services, including social media (for example, Facebook and Twitter) and other digital media such as or website. We will make sure that the full potential of the results of the ‘Friends and Family Test’ and other similar information is used in our work.’

It added that they will consider working with other agencies to carry out inspections, and will work with NICE to make sure they are clear about the measures used in assessments.

David Behan, CQC chief executive, said: ‘People have a right to expect safe, effective, compassionate, high quality care. CQC plays a vital role in making sure that care services meet those expectations.

‘We recognise that quality care cannot be achieved by inspection and regulation alone – that lies with care professionals, clinical staff, providers and those who arrange and fund local services – but we will set a bar below which no provider must fall and a rating which will encourage and drive improvement.

‘In developing our plans for the next three years we have looked closely at what we do and listened to what others have told us, to make sure we focus on what matters to them. The plans also take account of Robert Francis’s report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and the response by the Secretary of State for Health.’

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Readers' comments (9)

  • I assume if Paris Brown tweets/facebooks negative comments about her local surgery, CQC will take that as a valid comment then?
    (Incase you wonder who Paris Brown is, she is a youth Police commissioner who recently trweeted racist and homophobic comments and had to make pubic apologies)

    Shouldn't BMA/GPC be challenging CQC on validity of such method? If my surgery gets closed down based on some online comments, I'm sure I'll do a bit more than stump my feet.

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  • Ann Clwyd MP who is conducting an enquiry into the way people have been treated mainly in hospitals so far, has been shocked by the number of people who contacted her to say they were afraid of the repercussions should they make a complaint or raise a concern about health workers....tweets and twitters give some a degree of security to speak out.including healthworkers themselves whether anonymously as 13April 12.27 has done or by name

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  • That's an incredibly sharrow way of trying to solve a problem. CQC is looking at the quality of the practice as a whole, not how to improve methods of raising concerns (which is an important but separate issue).

    So, it's all very well for it being anonymous, but how do you ensure it is representitive of the practice's service, accurate, and fair? I can say alot about an electrician I once had who I thought was very poor - but that's not to say all of his work has been poor, nor is it fair for somebody to cease his business based on my comments on twitter. Just imagine how fair you'd feel if it was your life work?

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  • Monitor facebook & Twitter sites? They think this will give them evidence of the quality of care via references to GP services? Is it April Fools day all month?? What a disgraceful way to treat our profession. The next, & perhaps the lowest ,act in a long list of betrayals . Where are our leaders in all this.? Why oh why didn't they use their best ammunition to protect the profession.. the vast majority of whom decent ,hard working and dedicated grass roots GPs..boycotting commissioning..the one thing that the government wanted! (ie..to hand over the poisoned chalice of rationing!).I despair!

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  • Sounds like a wonderful way to get a totally biased viewpoint - one favouring to young. Isn't this what created the scandal of mid-Staffs, itself just the tip of an iceburg, by pandering to the fit at the expence of the sick and elderly?

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  • Peter Swinyard

    This is the sort of this which will lead not to good quality medical care but to pandering to wishes however ill-informed. I can imagine refusal of an unnecessary antibiotic would cause negative comment on twitbook but the time spent explaining would be unlikely to cause the balanced positive twitbook post.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Sorry meant to say this it the sort of nonsense.... etc

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  • I see no reason why CQC needs to think it has such a remit.
    This should be CCG's role if all necessary who are more closer to GPs

    Besides there are Like of GMC with their monitoring and Good Practice Guidelines.

    My opinion is that this Govt would be putting these measures for political purposes.
    Besides who is paying for these idiotic policies in the making

    What is GPC/ BMA/RCGP doing about this?

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  • Once again I find myself reading comments that appear to be knee jerk reactions by ill informed GPs and those working in Primary Care. Monitoring Facebook and Twitter posts around general practice will be an effective method of gaining an insight into the views of people who use the service. The limitations of using such posts are well known so GPs will not be asked to explain themselves every time a patient grumbles about not getting antibiotics or if some one with a grudge decides to air it online. What the CQC will be looking for will be posts that make specific complaints that can be supported with evidence or high volume posts from various sources with areas of commonality. The CQC has a responsibility to ensure that Primary Care is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led, so it would be irresponsible to ignore the views and comments made about the service by the service users.

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