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CQC could extend notice period for practice inspections after feedback from pilots

Exclusive: The Care Quality Commission could extend the notice period given to GP practices prior to inspections to ten days, after pilots suggested that a lack of adequate time to prepare could prove ‘disruptive' to clinicians and patients.

The move comes after LMCs raised concerns of a lack of ‘fair notice' in some pilot inspections that were run over the summer.

The regulator tested a range of notice periods with participating practices, including no notice, 48 hours' notice, five days' notice, and, at the behest of practices, ten days' notice.

It said it was considering granting GPs a longer notice period to ease the burden, particularly on small practices. But it said it may still make unannounced inspections if it has been alerted to a potential problem at the practice.

In a newsletter to its members, which it said was based on feedback from LMCs across England, Cambridgeshire LMC said: ‘The LMC has advised the CQC that a maximum of five days is not considered to be a fair amount of notice in general practice, therefore a 10-day notice period should also be trialled.'

It said: ‘Being prepared and having evidence easily accessible de?nitely makes a visit go more smoothly as does the presence of  the [practice manager] which supports the need for adequate notice of an impending inspection.'

A CQC spokesperson told Pulse: ‘All other sectors registered with CQC receive unannounced inspections. We are aware that this may be disruptive to clinicians and patients in GP practices, particularly smaller practices, so are considering short notice inspections instead. During the pilots we tested no notice inspections, 48 hours' notice, five days' notice and at the request of some of our key stakeholders, a 10-day notice period.'

‘We are still collating feedback from the pilots and have not yet reached a decision about the notice period we will use when inspecting GP practices. We will publish this information soon.'

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, chair of Devon LMC, said: ‘We want the inspection to be a useful exercise and ten working days seems a reasonable amount of time to prepare and get all the documentation ready for the inspectors.  I think it is fairly clear that the CQC is trying to put together a process that works. They genuinely don't seem to try to catch people out. Coming when the practice is not prepared is unpractical also for the inspectors who may have to do more work as a result, including having to revisit the practice.'

Cambridgeshire LMC said other key issues brought to the CQC's attention were a perceived inconsistent approach from inspectors to which staff members should undergo a CRB check, with: ‘some inspectors insisting that all staff should be CRB checked (including the cleaner!)'.

The CQC said it was currently developing better guidance for inspectors following the feedback, adding: ‘The requirement for a CRB check and the level of that check depends on the roles and responsibilities of the job and the type of contact the person will have with children and vulnerable adults.'

LMCs also raised concerns that inspectors in pilots were basing their traffic light risk profiles on inaccurate data, or that there was a lack of meaningful data.

The CQC spokesperson said: ‘The CQC uses the latest available published data in the QRPs. For some data sources practices do receive their own results prior to publication which they can of course share with the inspector.'

Overall, the feedback from LMCs concluded that the pilot visits had been ‘very thorough but positive, and nowhere near as daunting as many practices had ?rst thought.'