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CQC apologises for errors but refuses to name exonerated practices

The CQC has apologised to 60 practices wrongly identified as being at high risk of providing poor care to patients, but has refused to release the names of the wronged practices.

The regulator has temporarily taken down the interactive map showing practices’ risk ratings from its website while it updates the scores after admitting errors with its data.

However, it has refused to provide the names of those practices whose ratings have been upgraded, with GP leaders saying that this was ‘ridiculous’, and that practices who had been wronged should be made public to clear their names if they so wished.

It comes as the RCGP today called for an indefinite withdrawal of the ‘severely flawed’ risk ratings amid the ‘shocking news’ of their inaccuracies, and said that the apology was not enough as the ‘damage caused’ would not be ‘easily undone’.

The CQC’s apology follows a huge backlash from the profession after the CQC published the ratings on almost all practices in England, based on QOF data and the GP Patient Survey.

The scores were picked up by national and local media, and the Department of Health has said will be published on its new MyNHS patient comparison website of NHS services.

But following its admissions of inaccuracies, it has refused to say which practices have been removed from the ‘high risk categories’.

A spokesperson told Pulse that they ‘have already contacted… and apologised to’ all the GPs wrongly deemed high risk, adding:  ‘We won’t be supplying the names of the 60 practices.’

The CQC would not share its letter of apology with Pulse, but said it ‘reflected’ the statement it issued on its website on Friday.

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said: ‘How ridiculous. While they should not have published this in the first place they should now apologise to the profession as a whole. Because they have actively badmouthed these practices and the whole of general practice at a time when we all couldn’t have been lower.’

Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulation subcommittee and executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said the CQC should ask the affected practices whether they were happy to be ‘publicly exonerated’.

He said: ‘[The CQC] should ask all the practices whether they are happy now to be publicly exonerated as those whose reputation CQC falsely damaged in public and to be guided by the practices’ wishes in this respect.’

Five of 38 indicators used for the CQC’s intelligent monitoring tool were amended last week after Pulse reported that there was concerns over the accuracy of much of the data, including for those practices that had dropped elements of QOF and for the indicators relating to the patient survey.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said in a letter to the regulator that the admissions of errors were ‘shocking news especially for those GP surgeries who have been wrongly labelled and for the patients whose trust in their family doctors has been cruelly shaken’.

She added: ‘It is ironic that a system that was introduced supposedly to support patients has left them confused and let down. The damage caused by this episode will not easily be undone.

‘The publication of these over-simplistic bandings has stigmatised hard-working, family doctors, who are trying their hardest in very difficult circumstances to provide the very best care for their patients. To discover that the data on which these banding decisions were based is severely flawed will further demoralise our hard-pressed GPs and destroy any semblance of confidence that they had in the inspection system.’

She concluded by urging for an indefinite withdrawal of the risk ratings, saying: ‘We urge the CQC to scrap these flawed bandings pending a fundamental review. There are many aspects of quality patient care that cannot be measured in crude terms.’

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