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CQC should not ‘label’ struggling GP practices, says RCGP



Struggling GPs must be helped rather than ‘labelled’ as failing, the RCGP has said, following reports that 200 practices face closure under the new CQC inspection regime.

CQC chief inspector of general practice, Professor Steve Field, told Sky News that a pilot of the new regime, due to be launched tomorrow, had identified 200 practices that were ‘failing’.

He said ‘a handful’ of surgeries would be closed immediately, while ‘scores more’ would be given a year to improve. And Sky News reported that during the pilots, inspectors had found practices prescribing the ‘wrong medicines’, and referring suspected cancer cases too late.

But RCGP chair, Dr Maureen Baker, said the new inspection regime was revealing ‘growing pressures that GPs and their teams are currently facing in trying to deliver safe patient care with diminishing resources’.

‘If practices are struggling to meet quality standards due to factors beyond their control – such as lack of funding, significant increases in patient consultations and difficulties in trying to recruit sufficient GPs – we should not be ‘labelling’ them but looking at what support they need to bring them up to scratch,’ she said.

‘Also, if practices close, there could be a knock-on effect to neighbouring practices so any decisions about closures will need to be cognisant of that.’

The new CQC inspection regime of GP practices will label practices ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘needs improvement’, or ‘inadequate’.

GP practices that are judged ‘inadequate’ in a number of areas by the new CQC inspections will have six months to improve. If they fail to improve they will be put into special measures for a further six months – and if they are still found to inadequate, their registration will be removed.

Dr Baker said the RCGP would work with the CQC to produce support packages for struggling practices.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week, that the new Ofsted-style CQC ratings for practices were ‘without doubt the toughest inspection regime in the world.’