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CQC fees ‘could double’ as Government plans to withdraw funding

Exclusive GP practices are set to face a continual rise in CQC fees over the coming years, as the Government seeks to reduce the grant it gives to the regulator, Pulse can reveal.

The CQC – which is currently funded both by the Government’s grant-in-aid and its providers – is expected by the Treasury to work towards fully covering the cost of its regulation ‘over a reasonable time period’ through the fees it charges its providers.

Currently, the Government grant covers just over half of the CQC’s costs, while GP practices with a single location pay between £616 and £948, while those with more than one location range from £1,341 to £16,759.

But the GPC has claimed that any move to increase GP practices’ CQC fees will cause ‘further detriment to patient services’, adding that the existing workload and bureaucratic registration process already impacts GPs’ ability to provide patient care.

In April, practices saw their annual CQC fees rise by 9%, which is expected to add around £60 to the bill of an average practice, while in 2014 practices were hit with a smaller rise of just 2.5% in registration fees.

But this is likely to increase in future, with a CQC regulatory fees document published earlier this year stating that it needed to achieve a ‘higher recovery on fees’ as its current position was ‘not sustainable under Treasury requirements’.

A spokeswoman for the CQC confirmed to Pulse that: ‘Changes in our fees strategy will affect all providers, not just GP surgeries.’

The CQC’s total revenue budget for 2015/16 is £233m – of which £4m is allocated for Healthwatch England – funded solely from a combination of the Government’s grant and income from provider fees.

As part of this budget, the providers’ CQC fees contribute £113m – representing a rise of £10m compared with the previous year – while the Government’s grant of £120m over this period is same as the previous year.

However, Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC’s contracts and regulations subcommittee, said that it is ‘unacceptable’ that GP practices should have to foot the bill for a regulatory system.

Dr Morley added: ‘It is unacceptable in principle that GP practices have to pay themselves for a regulatory system that is mandated by law in order for them to be able to continue to stay in business. The direct financial cost to practices, as well as the workload and bureaucracy involved in the process, has a direct impact on their ability to provide patient care.’

He went on to warn that an inevitable rise in GP practice CQC fees will have a negative impact of patient services.

‘The increasing complexity of the CQC registration, inspection and rating regime , all of which are patently unfit for purpose, will of itself lead to even higher fees, whilst the move to full cost recovery from practices will make the situation far worse. It is inevitable that this will cause further detriment to patient services,’ said Dr Morley.

The CQC will carry out a public consultation on its fees for 2016/17 in the autumn this year.

GP leaders recently declared war on the CQC, with the LMCs Conference in London voting for a motion that called for the regulator to be scrapped entirely.