This site is intended for health professionals only

Hunt to announce new ‘rigorous’ inspection regime for GP practices to improve patient care

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce a new ‘rigorous’ inspection regime of GP practices this week, with the appointment of a new chief inspector of primary care to raise standards the Department of Health has revealed.

According to a briefing ahead of the speech, the DH said that Mr Hunt would announce a move away from the ‘box-ticking culture’ in the NHS and a return to the idea of the ‘family doctor’ so that patients know who is untimately responsible for their care.

He will say that one of the reasons for the recent pressure on A&E departments is because patients are going to A&E because there is no ‘credible alternative’. 

He will add that a new ‘rigorous’ system of inspection will be introduced to see the focus put firmly back on whether GP practices are providing effective and responsive care for all. A new chief inspector of general practice will be appointed to make sure this happens.

He will add that he wants a similar situation as in hospitals where a named doctor is responsible for the care provided at all times, and that they are clear the ‘buck’ stops with them.

Mr Hunt will say: ‘As a member of the public, I want to know my GP. And I want my GP to be someone that knows me and my family.

‘Yet we’ve turned GP practices into places where it’s a daily challenge for receptionists to cope with huge call volumes and GPs to get through to all the people they need to see.’

The Daily Mail also quotes the health secretary saying: ‘Everyone agrees that hospitals should only be a last resort for the frail elderly and that – for someone perhaps with dementia and other complex conditions – A&E departments can be extremely confusing places.

‘But what alternatives do we offer? GP surgeries where it is often impossible to get an appointment the next day; same day appointments but only if you call at 8 o’clock in the morning sharp and are lucky getting through; long waits on the phone to get through, sometimes at premium rates; difficulty in registering with another practice if you move home, or aren’t happy with the service you are receiving; out-of-hours services where you speak to a doctor who doesn’t know you from Adam and has no access to your medical record.’

It comes after Mr Hunt gave his clearest indication yet that he expects GPs to take back responsibility for running out-of-hours services.

Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Show yesterday, Mr Hunt said: ‘I think we need to go back to GPs having responsibility for making sure that for the people on their list there is a good service available.’

Deputy GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said he was waiting to hear details of how the new inspection regime would work.

He told Pulse: ‘It is essential that they will take a reasonable, pragmatic and proportionate approach to general practice inspections and regulation, understanding that we are not working in a sterilised operating theatre but a consultation room that mother’s regularly wheel prams in to.

‘In addition any attempt to introduce simplistic summary scores for general practice will not help inform patients about the quality of care we offer. We provide a complex service and this cannot be boiled down in to a simplistic and superficial judgement.’ Click here to read Dr Vautrey’s full comments.

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada said that the college supported any plans to promote better quality in general practice.

She said: ‘[We] are open to working with the Government and the CQC to devise a system that is going to create the right incentives to improve standards, including whether there is a case for introducing a chief inspector of primary care. But this must be done without adding to bureaucracy or creating a crude system of overall ratings for GP practices.’

‘Rumours of Ofsted-style inspections and tougher regulation are unhelpful and extremely demoralising, especially at a time when GPs are already heaving under the pressure of a bureaucratic and stifling tick box culture.’