The CQC and GMC will carry out joint inspections on GP practices if both regulators have concerns about a practice, in an agreement which aims to increase the sharing of information between both organisations.
The ‘joint operating protocol’ established by the CQC and GMC will mean that relevant information will be shared between the two organisations to help ‘drive improvements in patient care’.
However, as part of this agreement, both regulators will be sharing information at a number of points in CQC inspections and the GMC’s planned visiting processes – and could subsequently lead to joint inspections on practices if ‘both regulators have concerns about a provider.’
The GMC said that while there is a provision for joint planned inspections in the protocol, this would only take place on ‘very rare occasions’ when the regulator is looking into concerns into standards of training at a practice at the same time as the CQC was investigating their own concerns.
But GP leaders warned that this was a ‘very worrying development’ and that single-handed GPs are under particular threat from the prospect.
The moves comes as the regulator announced that practices found to be inadequate by the CQC following an inspection will immediately be put into special measures.
As part of the CQC and GMC’s new protocol, which was officially confirmed last month, there is provision for the two regulators to carry out joint inspections if they see fit, although the joint inspections will not contribute to CQC practice ratings.
Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC’s contracts and regulation subcommittee, said the possibility of both regulators inspecting practices is a ‘very worrying development.’
He said: ‘This is a very worrying development. CQC and GMC have completely different remits and I cannot conceive of any situation where it would be necessary or the right thing to do to carry out a joint visit. I am particularly concerned that single-handed GPs might be targeted and treated unfairly by such a scenario, which gives opportunity to inappropriately conflate issues related to professional performance with those of provider regulation.’
A spokesperson from the CQC said: ‘Our joint operating protocol with the GMC sets out how we will share information between our organisations and generally work together, building on our existing Memorandum of Understanding. As professional and service regulators, it is important we make sure patients receive high quality, safe and compassionate care.
‘Within this document, we have outlined what we would consider if we were to ever to carry out an inspection of a service jointly. It does not mean that we “will” or “plan to” carry out inspections with the GMC from now on.
‘A circumstance could include when both regulators have concerns about a provider according to our differing statutory purposes. If this was to ever happen, it would be to inspect against the standards that we are responsible for regulating, to maximise on resources, and to minimise any burden on providers. Our ratings would always be based on the judgements of those on our inspection teams and against our regulations only.’
The GMC said that by both regulators sharing information can help in building a ‘sharper picture of what is happening inside organisations.’
A GMC spokesperson, added: ‘Over the past year we have built up a stronger working relationship with the CQC – and we are committed to continuing this in the future.
‘The joint operational protocol (JOP), published in 2013, builds on of our memorandum of understanding with the CQC and allows us to share important information with each other. It allows us to fulfil our individual statutory functions in a coordinated way, driving improvements in medical practice and the care that patients receive.
‘By sharing information – especially concerns about patient safety – we can both build a bigger and sharper picture of what is happening inside organisations. That means we can target our action more effectively where there are problems.’
This article was updated on 21/01/15 at 16:49.