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CQC inspectors to shadow GP practices to gain ‘hands-on’ experience

Exclusive: CQC inspectors have begun shadowing practice managers to gain ‘hands-on’ experience of GP practices following concerns over their level of training, Pulse has learned.

The shadowing is part of training for new CQC inspectors and will also be offered as a ‘learning and development opportunity’ for all existing inspectors, the CQC has said.

A CQC spokesperson told Pulse that the ‘robust training regime’ for inspectors is being supplemented by four to eight-hour shadow visits that will offer both inspectors and practices a ‘hands-on opportunity for learning’.

The spokesperson added: ‘All professionals require an opportunity to further their professional development. An inspector of primary care services needs to keep abreast of improvements and innovations within general practice – what better way to achieve this than by spending time with the people who meet these challenges every day?’

The CQC’s new style GP inspection regime which is currently being tested before an offical roll-out in October will see a GP, a specialist inspector and a nurse or practice manager included in the inspection team. The GPC has complained that the pilots of the new regime has shown ‘clear issues’ with the training given to inspectors.

Professor Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, told Pulse that the shadowing scheme was at an early stage of development but was all about improving.

He said: ‘This is the start of a programme – we want to see how it goes, so we’re trying it out in a few areas. This is a pilot and we’re still learning – our philosophy is about improvement.

‘We want all of our inspectors to understand the context of what they’re expecting and that it’s difficult in general practice at the moment. As time goes on, they’ll see some outstanding practices and initiatives in general practice. This is all about improving our service.’

‘It is one of a number of initatives we’re trying out. We’re also meeting regularly with LMCs, and now we have our four regional medical advisors in post, their top priority is to meet with LMCs, local patients groups and college faculties.’

Not all LMCs are being invited onto the scheme but the CQC said that where shadowing has already occurred – for example, in Cambridgeshire – it has received positive feedback from both inspectors and practice staff. Inspectors are said to have found it useful to ‘update themselves on the issues currently faced by general practice’ and ‘to be able to take the time to observe the daily functioning of a practice and to discuss new innovations.’

Cambridgeshire LMC said it had been contacted again by the CQC to assist in finding ‘willing victims’ to be shadowed for a day so that inspectors can ‘gain experience and understanding of how it really is’.

In its August newsletter, the LMC said: ‘We are told that the inspectors found the opportunity really helpful, so much so that they are asking us to find more willing victims (practices) who feel that the would like to host a CQC inspector.

‘You will get the chance to have an off-the-record chat with the inspectors and ask any burning questions you may have.’  

Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC and GPC regulations lead, said he had also been approached to ask for volunteers and thought it was a ‘reasonable and sensible thing’ for the CQC to do.

He said: ‘This shows that the CQC recognises that they’ve got things wrong. They started using inspectors with no background in general practice, and some of them got it very badly wrong indeed. 

‘I think the CQC have held their hands up and admitted that they went wrong. They do want to learn from the process. Anything that helps inspectors get some background knowledge of the realities of trying to run a busy general practice, with all the difficulties and problems the profession’s having at the moment, can only be a good thing.’ 

However he warned that it could cause extra workload for practices.

He added: ‘Workload is something to be taken into consideration: practice managers are incredibly busy at the moment. It’s an entirely voluntary thing and people should only volunteer if they have the capacity to do it.

‘The ones who have are doing it for altruistic reasons, because they feel it would be useful and help both the process and the practice’.