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Health secretary dismisses pleas to halt CQC inspections

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has dismissed calls from the RCGP to impose an emergency pause on CQC inspections, warning that it would be ‘big mistake’ to slow down the ‘improvement of practices that aren’t providing high standards of care’.

In a response to the RCGP’s open letter sent to Mr Hunt last week – which pleaded for CQC inspections to be halted to relieve pressure on ‘crisis-hit’ practices and avoid risks to patient safety – the health secretary has hit back, adding that he ‘makes no apology for giving the public clear information on the quality of care at their surgery.’

In the letter to Mr Hunt, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said that the burdens being placed on GPs by the CQC inspection regime, along with pressures to provide seven-day access for routine care, are ‘undermining’ efforts to turn around the current crisis in general practice.

The move by the RCGP last week followed calls from the BMA for the CQC to be de-commissioned, while GPC chair Dr Channd Nagpaul recently told delegates at the LMCs conference that the regulator’s Ofsted-style ratings for practices should be abolished.

But despite this, Mr Hunt has insisted that any halt in inspections would be a ‘big mistake.’

Mr Hunt said: ‘We make absolutely no apology for giving the public clear information for the first time on the quality of their local GP services, or for ensuring that hardworking families can access a GP 7 days a week.

‘To halt inspections now would be a big mistake, and slow down the process of improvement for those surgeries which aren’t giving the public the high standards of care they deserve.’

The CQC’s chief inspector for general practice, Professor Steve Field, also rejected the RCGP’s plea, adding that an inspection by the regulator ‘should not be a burden for a well-managed practice’.

However, a Pulse investigation recently revealed that nearly half of GPs say their practices are being forced to spend more than 20 staff hours preparing for a CQC inspection, with many spending hundreds of hours.