Exclusive The CQC has said it will review the timings of its inspections of out-of-hours services so it captures ‘typical service provision’ outside of quieter times.
In the regulator’s Annual Report and Accounts, published today, it said its evaluation of the new inspection regime highlighted that some out-of-hours providers have been ‘quiet’ at the time of the site visit, which ‘raises the question’ of the effectiveness of the inspection.
The evaluation comes after the new regime – devised by the chief inspector of primary care, Professor Steve Field, has come in for criticism for using untrained GP inspectors to ‘fill in gaps’ on inspections.
Feedback from wave one of the was to ensure the inspectors visit different nights, rather than just on a single night as was the case in the pilots – to get a sense of how the service is run and so they can speak to the people who use the service.
The annual report, which covers all areas of the CQC, said that the regulator had found some areas where the new regime could improve.
One of these, it said, was: ‘The timing of the inspection: some services have been very quiet at the time of the site visit, which raises the question of whether we are capturing typical out-of-hours service provision.’
Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee: ‘Are they suggesting they go and revisit everywhere to get a “true” picture if they don’t find the place as busy as they’d like?
‘Why on earth should an inspection at a quiet time not be satisfactory evidence that all is also well when it’s busy? If it were true then I would suggest that it means that the CQC’s processes are still not fit for purpose rather than that they don’t have enough evidence about the service. I expect they think that if they visit a service when it’s under real pressure they’ll be more likely to find something they can criticise to get their brownie points.’
However, Professor Steve Field, the chief inspector of primary care, said: ‘We continue to run pilot inspections to test the new proposed approach up until October 2014.’
‘As part of the pilot stage, we are gathering evidence that will help inform what the new approach will be. We welcome any areas for improvement identified during testing and will ensure these are addressed, including any issues around consistency and clarity around inspection team roles. We are also currently testing the size and the composition of the inspection teams as part of the testing stage.’
The report also said that the CQC needs to find more consistency and that the role of the inspection team needs to be clearly defined to ensure they are know what they should inspecting.
The report added: ‘The early inspections highlighted several areas for development: Consistency and the need to clearly define roles of inspection team members and what they should be looking at.’
Please note: This article was amended at 12:20pm on 14 July 2014