The Care Quality Commission is struggling to fulfil its core function and will face a ‘key test’ in registering up to 10,500 GP practices in 2013, according to a critical report by the National Audit Office.
The CQC is ruling out a further postponement of GP registration, which was delayed until April 2013 following problems in registering dentists and private GPs.
The NAO says that extra resources should be diverted if things go wrong again: ‘The Department and the Commission should review progress regularly so timely decisions, such as whether resources should be diverted from other work, can be taken if GP registration does not go to plan.’
However, the report highlights a shortage of resources at the CQC, with a 14% staff vacancy rate and 6% cut in the budget.
If these posts are filled, there will be enough inspectors to cope, it says. ‘However, additional work will certainly be involved in regulating out-of-hours providers and GP practices.’
Furthermore, if more poor quality care is unearthed, extra resources will need to be put into compliance and enforcement work, says the NAO.
According to auditors, the key lessons being drawn from previous registration exercises are: GPs should be engaged earlier and involved in testing the process; it should streamlined it so that less information is required, and online services improved to speed up applications.
A CQC spokesperson told Pulse they were not seeking a further postponement of GP registration: ‘We are entirely satisfied and happy with the process we have in place and are working to ensure that it is as quick and as painless as possible for GPs.’
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘They will have to consider their entire operations in the light of this report.
‘I have no reason to expect them not to be on track, but I think that many GPs will be pleased if they do delay this.’