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200 GP practices face closure under CQC inspections

Up to 200 GP practices could be closed under the new CQC inspection regime, chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field has said.

A pilot of the new regime had so far identified 200 practices that are ‘failing’, Professor Field told Sky News. A ‘handful of surgeries’ would be shut down straight away and ‘scores more’ would be given a year to improve, he said.

CQC inspectors had identified practices that had prescribed the ‘wrong medicines’, had ‘over-prescribed’ antibiotics, were referring suspected cancer cases too late and had ‘staff shortages’ as well as ‘chaotic management,’ according to Sky News.

It comes as the CQC is set to officially launch its new inspection regime of GP practices on Wednesday, when it will determine practices’ ratings across six patient groups, five key questions and combinations of each. These will feed into the practice’s overall rating, which can be ‘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.

And practices will have to stump up half the cost of essential support for when they are placed in ‘special measures’ by the CQC in a move described by GP leaders as the ‘final straw’ for many practices.

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

Mr Hunt told delegates: ‘I’m very proud of the changes we’ve made to the inspections regime. I wanted to have inspections that called a spade, a spade and created a culture of continuous improvement and learning throughtout the NHS and social care system. We’ve introduced Ofsted-style ratings in our hospitals, GP surgeries, residential care..that are, I think without doubt, the toughest inspection regime in the world – and I want that to mean that we have the best care in the world.

‘It’s not just about identifying the bad places, but we need to know about them, it’s identifying the good places. On Friday the first hospital in the country got an ‘outstanding’ rating – it’s Frimley Park – which happens to serve some of my constituents. I’ve always known it’s a brilliant hospital, but because of that rating they’re going to get people coming from hospitals all over the country – and I want that to happen with great care homes, with great GP practices as well.’

In an exclusive interview with Pulse earlier this month, Mr Hunt said he would be allowing the new regime ‘to bed down’ before considering whether he could reduce the paperwork involved in GP inspections.

He said: ‘When we started the hospital inspections, people said: ‘We can’t believe 50 inspectors are coming in and seeing the hospital.’ [But] now we are hearing tremendous support for this new regime, because hospitals realise they get a huge amount of useful information. So we need to make sure we don’t overrun people with bureaucracy, but also let GPs see some of the reports they are going to get from chief inspector Professor Steve Field. I hope they will be a way of improving things.’

Mr Hunt’s comments come as Dr Paul Cundy, a long-standing member of the GPC and chair of its IT committee, has accused the the CQC of not following its own procedures and that practices were ‘set up to fail’.In an open letter to the CQC’s senior national GP advisor, Professor Nigel Sparrow and chief inspector of general practice, Professor Steve Field, Dr Cundy said he had found 41 errors in the report prepared on his practice.