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CQC drops plans to inspect GP opening hours

Exclusive The CQC has shelved controversial plans to review GP opening hours as part of its inspection regime, Pulse has learned.

The CQC has told Pulse that opening hours will not form part of the regime, however added that it will be inspecting how well practices provide access to out-of-hours services.

A CQC spokesperson said: ‘We will look at access to services but not necessarily opening times. For example if a practice closes at 6pm do patients know how to get access to a GP out of hours and how is this managed?’

It comes as CQC plans for inspectors to look at whether practices were open at ‘convenient’ times attracted strong criticism from GP leaders when first floated in the ‘A new Start’ consultation last June.

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As part of its recommendations for providers being ‘responsive’, the consultation stated: ‘By responsive, we mean that people get the treatment and care at the right time, without excessive delay, and that they are listened to in a way that responds to their needs and concerns. For example, is a GP surgery open at times to suit the needs of the local population?’

Commenting on the decision not to go ahead with plans, Dr Bob Morley, executive secretary for Birmingham LMC, said: ‘Certainly that they are not going to be inspecting practices on issues that are beyond their contractual obligations is welcome news. I am not quite so sure about them inspecting access to out-of-hours services because unless the practice is opted in it is obviously the CCG’s responsibility.’

Over 40 commentators came forward to air their views on the controversial suggestion on Pulse’s website last June, with some arguing that this would see the CQC going above and beyond its remit as a regulator.

North and South Essex LMC chair Dr Brian Balmer, who commented: ‘The CQC are a regulatory body, not the contracting body. Is opening hours any of its business? Is it their role to police whether people take a lunch break, or leave at half seven? I would have thought NHS England already carry out that role and several people trying to do the same job always ends with tears.’

A CQC spokesperson said that the original document was a ‘starting point’ for discussions.