GP practices will be asked to welcome CQC inspectors again from 19 October, as the regulator has set the start date for its ‘transitional’ regulatory approach.
GP out-of-hours providers will be subject to the new-style inspections from the same date, which may or may not result in a new rating of the service.
Compared to the pause in inspections during the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, this represents a ‘strengthened’ but ‘flexible’ approach to regulation, the CQC said.
However, the ongoing pandemic means the CQC will not return to its fixed timetable of inspections due to ‘the pressures on providers and the risk of spreading infection’.
It also said that it is ‘unlikely’ it will return to normal frequency ‘in the near future’.
The CQC will use its ‘remote monitoring’ system of using data and conversations with GP practices and out-of-hours providers to identify risk of unsafe care, prompting the inspections.
The CQC said that it will be able to re-rate services ‘in a limited number of cases’ following an inspection.
A joint statement from the regulator’s chief inspectors said: ‘As our inspections will be more targeted and focused around areas of risk, we may not always cover all aspects of our five key questions and our Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs). As a result, our inspections may not always lead to a change in rating for a service.’
If inspectors determine that the care given presents a ‘low level of risk’ to patients, no further action will be taken against the provider, the statement added.
The CQC launched its Emergency Support Framework (ESF) in response to the pandemic in May, which saw it phoning to check in with GP practices.
The chief inspectors said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, our regulatory role did not change. Our core purpose of keeping people safe was always driving our decisions.
‘However, as the risks from the pandemic change, we’re evolving our approach in a way that is both sensitive to the changing circumstances of providers, and that also puts people who use services at the centre of what we do.’
It added: ‘We will continue to adapt our transitional regulatory approach, and remain responsive as the situation changes. We’ll also be considering longer-term changes to how we regulate, which we’ll explore through engagement on our future strategy.’
The CQC also announced last month that it is piloting a new model of checking up on practices ‘without crossing the threshold’, although participation was voluntary.