Exclusive The CQC’s first completed round of GP practice inspections concluded with 90% rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – and with a price tag of over £100m, Pulse can reveal.
The CQC said the data, released exclusively to Pulse, showed that the programme had led to improvements, since two-thirds of practices given the lowest rating ‘inadequate’ were found to be ‘good’ on re-inspection.
But GP leaders have questioned whether this was the best use of NHS money at a time when the service is severely cash-strapped.
Pulse inspects the inspectors
The data obtained by Pulse showed that 90% of practices were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – up from 87% in July last year.
It also showed that the total cost of GP practice inspections was £55m since it launched in April three years ago.
But when taking into account related costs such as estates, HR, IT and the ‘intelligent monitoring’ programme, the CQC said the full cost of the general practice inspection programme was £36.5m a year – which by now would amount to around £110m in total.
According to the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field, this was money well spent.
He told Pulse: ‘It is clear that the GP inspection programme has helped deliver improved care for people right across the country.
‘Three-quarters of practices rated as inadequate improved sufficiently on re-inspection to receive a higher rating.’
As of this financial year, NHS England will reimburse GP practices’ CQC fees in full but for the past three years the lion share of the cost of general practice inspection – some £20m a year – has been borne by GP practices.
And GPC regulation spokesperson Dr Robert Morley said the programme had subjected practices to ‘enormous cost, workload and bureaucracy’.
He added: ‘It’s clear the massive cost and disruption to practices is completely unwarranted and disproportionate – it just confirms what is already known through other means.
‘There is simply no need to have in place the simplistic, misleading and damaging CQC rating system and it should be abolished.’
With CQC fees rising six-fold this year, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard added: ‘GPs have raised the issue of the costs of running the CQC – money that could be spent on frontline care.’
The CQC finished inspecting every practice in England in February this year and, although good and outstanding practices had been told they would now face inspection within five years, Pulse also reported that one-in-four of all GP practices can expect a re-inspection within the next year.