The CQC has suspended all routine inspections, effective immediately, Pulse has learned.
The regulator will stop inspections starting today, with ‘clinically qualified CQC special advisors’ having ‘already returned to the frontline to help with the wider national response’ to the coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic.
A note from the CQC said doctors could ‘be assured we will not be doing anything to distract you and your teams from using your discretion in looking after the public’.
Although it added that it ‘may be necessary to still use some of our inspection powers in a very small number of cases when we have clear reports of harm’.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said: ‘We encourage everyone to act in the best interests of the health of the people they serve, with the top priority the protection of life. We encourage you to use your discretion and act in the best way you see fit…
‘We hope this reassures you of CQC’s commitment to offering the health and care system all the support possible to ensure that people – those who use services and those who work in them – are kept safe during this global health emergency.’
It comes as earlier this month, the CQC said that ‘most inspections’ would continue in spite of the coronavirus outbreak.
The RCGP welcomed the suspension and said would enable GPs to ‘dedicate their time’ to providing front line care during the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Last week, RCGP council chair Professor Martin Marshall wrote to the CQC calling for a ‘temporary respite from inspection’ for GP practices.
We welcome the move by @CareQualityComm to immediately suspend all routine inspections, enabling GPs and their teams to dedicate their time to providing front line care #COVID_19uk #BackGP https://t.co/MAG1Zx38zs
— RCGP (@rcgp) March 16, 2020
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul also wrote to express ‘severe concerns’ over the regulator’s response to the pandemic.
He said that continuing ‘any’ routine inspections would have a ‘significant adverse impact on the health service’, while the ‘absolute priority’ of GP practices must be emergency preparedness planning and preparing for ‘significant’ staff absences.
And BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey wrote to the chief inspector of primary medical services Dr Rosie Benneyworth and called on the CQC to take into account the ‘difficult recovery phase’ the NHS will face once coronavirus pressures subside.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said that the Government is planning to ‘release doctors’ from other duties and ‘retrain’ them to care for Covid-19 patients hooked up to ventilators made by car and military manufacturers.
Last week, NHS England issued advice for practices to move to a ‘total triage’ services, as LMCs and CCGs are implementing radical changes to GP access.