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Practices ‘risk rated’ by CQC based on QOF and patient survey data

GP practices have been given a pre-inspection ‘risk rating’ by the CQC based on data from the QOF and the GP Patient Survey, in a move that GP leaders say has created ‘more sticks to beat GPs with’.

The CQC announced details of its ‘intelligent monitoring’ scheme today designed to assign ‘risk ratings’ to practices, which are being used to prioritise when a practice should be inspected and will be published on the NHS Choices website.

It found that one in five practices had been determined to be ‘at risk’.

The CQC’s Intelligent Monitoring report, published today, set out the 38 indicators that have been used to assign practices their risk rating, which includes the proportion of dementia cases they diagnose relative to the national prevalence, and patients’ ability to see their preferred GP on their last visit.

GP leaders have denounced the decision to measure on ‘simplistic’ indicators and say placing them in the public domain creates more ‘sticks to beat GPs with’ before they’ve even been through an inspection.

Under intelligent monitoring, practices will just need to receive an ‘elevated’ risk score in three of the 38 indicators to be given the highest risk rating, which will mean they receive a red flag on the NHS Choices website.

The CQC says the indicators do not amount to a ‘judgement’ of practices, but the GPC told Pulse the information should never have been put in the public domain especially where indicators are outside practice control.

The Intelligent monitoring guidelines state: ‘We will use our analysis of these indicators to raise questions, not make judgements, about the quality of care. Our judgements will always follow inspections, which take into account the results of our intelligent monitoring and reports from other organisations.’

The 38 indicators span three of the CQC’s five inspection domains – whether practices are effective, caring and responsive – and more indicators likely to be added in future.

The first set of indicators include:

  • Dementia diagnosis rates, which will be based on QOF data. The CQC says practices should be aiming towards delivering the nationally expected threshold of 67% by 2015;
  • The number of emergency admissions for ‘ambulatory care sensitive conditions’ – ie, problems that could be managed outside hospitals;
  • Percentage of Cephalosporins and Quinolones as a proportion of antibiotics prescribed;
  • Flu vaccination percentage rates for patients between 6 months and 65, and those aged over 65;
  • Number of Ibuprofen and Naproxen Items prescribed as a percentage of all Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs Items prescribed
  • Number of AF patients being treated with anti-coagulation drug therapy or an anti-platelet therapy

There are a number of indicators derived from the GP Patient Survey, including:

  • The proportion of respondents to the GP patient survey who stated that in the reception area other patients can’t overhear;
  • The proportion of respondents to the GP patient survey who stated that they always or almost always see or speak to the GP they prefer;
  • The proportion of respondents to the GP patient survey who  described the overall experience of their GP surgery as fairly good or very good.

The CQC has already placed preliminary intelligent monitoring data for this year on a map, which shows 80% of practices are of low risk.

However, there are large swathes of blank data in Somerset where the CCG has dropped the QOF in favour of a local quality scheme – a scenario that is likely to become increasingly common under NHS England’s plans for CCGs to be able to drop the national QOF as part of its co-commissioning primary care proposals.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said that these were ‘simplistic’ judgements.

He said: ‘The art of general practice isn’t reflected within these very simplistic and bald statements, but also to provide this level of detail and information without any context on the practice from which it came from. There’s no link about what type of patients a particular practice provides services too. What funding levels they receive compared to other practices, the challenges practices face from premises, or support from community team.

‘They’re becoming more and more sticks to beat general practices with, and more and more targets – when we’ve seen the dangers of a target culture in mid-Staffs, and the consequences of organisations simply focusing on performance management targets, and there’s a risk of this happening to practices as well.  

He added that GPs are ‘performance managed in an incredible way’.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘As soon as you start traffic lighting things, you’re making a judgement, and the intention of providing more information is not necessarily to make judgements on the basis of those indicators. The judgement comes when you’ve had your CQC assessment yourself – not these very simplistic summarising.’

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said that his practice was ‘at risk’ for factors they had little control over.

He said: ‘Apparently my practice is on Band 2 purely due to ACR tests missing, some people who won’t have their smears and because we don’t seem to have recorded multidisciplinary case meetings for palliative care – because we had no-one on the palliative care register in that period.’

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice, said: ‘There is a lot of good and outstanding care taking place across the country as our data and recent reports show.

‘While it is positive that 78% of general practices are currently a low concern based on the available data, there is no reason for complacency and standards must continue to improve.

‘It is important to remember that the data is not a judgement as it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care. The data is a further tool that will help us to decide where to inspect and when.’

Pulse first revealed that the CQC was drawing up plans to draw up a risk profile for every practice to allow it to spot poor or potentially dangerous GPs back in 2009.


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