Unannounced inspections of GP practices focused on patient access will be postponed for the next three weeks until January 2022, the CQC has said.
GPs have been asked to prioritise Covid boosters over routine appointments and in response to this and ‘alarming’ new data on the Omicron variant, the CQC announced that it will cancel inspections across health services.
A spokesperson confirmed to Pulse that this includes the recently-announced targeted GP access inspections.
The regulator said the decision was made ‘in recognition’ of the fact that expanding the booster programme will ‘require a massive effort from the NHS which is already under severe pressure’.
CQC set out its framework for the unannounced access inspections – which were announced as part of NHS England plans for improving access to GP practices this winter – last week.
The pausing of inspections was confirmed in a letter from NHS England laying out further details of the booster vaccination programme, sent out to GPs on Monday evening (please visit PulseToday for updates throughout the day).
It said: ‘To support the rollout, the Care Quality Commission has confirmed it will postpone on-site inspections in mainstream NHS services for three weeks (ie hospitals, ambulances, GPs, 111), except in cases where we have reason to believe serious failings in safety pose a risk to life, or serious harm.’
The CQC statement said: ‘We will also be offering additional support to acute hospitals and GPs in order to provide advice on the risks they are facing and to escalate these if necessary.‘This decision has been taken in response to the extremely fast-moving situation, with the aim of being as supportive as possible to the increased pressure on the NHS. It updates previous communications on our inspection approach – however, our priority, as ever, remains to keep people safe.’
The news comes just days after the Department of Health and Social Care told Pulse that the introduction of ‘plan B’ restrictions meant ‘no change’ to the GP Access Fund plans.