GP practices are facing a 567% increase in CQC fees within as little as two years.
In a consultation document released earlier this month, the regulator has proposed a set of radical fee hikes that will see providers covering the full cost of inspections.
As a result, larger practices could see their fees rise by more than £15,000 – from £2,681 this year to £17,893 in 2017/18. Small and medium-sized practices fare little better (see table below).
In response, the Department of Health has said it will put £15m into the GP contract for next year to cover most of the additional fees, and will review future years’ costs.
But the GPC warned this would not be enough, saying the huge increase in fees was ‘unacceptable’ and that it could be the ‘final straw’ for some struggling practices.
Pulse reported earlier this year that fees could double, as the CQC was having to move to a funding structure whereby providers would cover the full costs of inspection. However, initial indications proved an underestimate, with a consultation published last month saying that, in the best-case scenario, practices will have to pay an increase of 567% in fees by 2019/20, with incremental increases each year until then. In the worst case, they will face paying the full increase by 2017/18.
A DH spokesperson told Pulse it was putting £15m into the GP contract to help practices with the rise in CQC fees.
The spokesperson said: ‘We want the NHS to be the safest health care service in the world and the CQC plays a vital role in that. We have always been clear that we expect the CQC to recover its costs through fees.’
The DH claimed the additional funding should cover the increases in 2016/17, However, it gave no guarantees about covering increases in subsequent years.
The GPC has moved to fight the proposed fee increases. Deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We have been having robust discussions not only with CQC but with the DH and NHS England about the unacceptable plans for a massive rise in CQC fees.
‘So far, the DH has suggested some reimbursement via expenses but that will not be enough.’
Dr Vautrey added that the increase was made worse because GPs ‘see very little value for what the CQC are actually doing, and yet they are the ones that will be footing the bill for it’.
He said: ‘If anything, for practices that are really struggling and are under financial pressure, the proposals could be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.’
As a result of expected cuts to its budget, the regulator has already indicated it will scale back the frequency of inspections for practices rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
In the consultation document, CQC interim chair Michael Mire and chief executive David Behan, say: ‘We do not underestimate the impact on providers of paying fees, and we will continue to look carefully at our costs relating to regulation.
‘We have a responsibility to cover our costs by charging fees, but we are also accountable for demonstrating that we are fair, efficient, effective and proportionate.’
The fee for 2015/16 represented a 9% increase on 2014/15.