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Chief GP inspector admits practices have received unfair CQC ratings

The CQC is ‘not as consistent’ as it should be with some practices inspected with more leniency than others, the head of GP inspections has admitted.

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, said some of the practices that have been rated as ‘requires improvement’ are ‘probably inadequate’ and not enough practices have been given an ‘outstanding rating’.

He said: ‘I’m pretty confident about the inadequate level. I think actually there are some in the requires improvement that are probably inadequate.

‘I put my hands up and say we’re not as consistent as we should be but we try very, very hard and I’m pretty confident about inadequate. I don’t think we’ve rated enough surgeries as outstanding actually.’

His comments come after the CQC’s State of Care report, which was published earlier this month, shows that GP practice ratings have continued to improve, despite already being the highest performing CQC-regulated sector.

While answering questions at the Best Practice conference today, Professor Field apologised to a delegate who complained that his practice was asked to change seat covers, curtains and children’s toys to meet inspectors’ requirement.

Professor Field said: ‘I’m sorry if it’s appeared both heavy handed or a bit inconsistent at times but we’re now learning and moving forward and much more focused.’ 

He said the watchdog is ‘trying to improve’ its consistency on judgements ‘to become much more reliable’. 

He said: ‘It’s the same problem with the college exam, it’s the same problem with O-levels or A-levels. Whatever assessment system you have it has to be valid. It has to be a setting for what we need to assess and it has to be reliable.

‘That’s why we’re spending a lot of time training the GPs that go in because, in nature, some of us are hawks and some of us are doves and what we need is a consistent approach.’ 

Professor Field added that the quality assurance framework for general practice has more steps than for adult social care inspections in an effort to enforce consistancy.