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Field: One in ten practices must make major improvements

As many as 10% of GP practices in England need to make major improvements, with those that are found to be unsafe or providing poor access facing possible closure, the new chief inspector of general practice has warned.

In his first full-length interview since taking on the brand-new role at the CQC, Professor Steve Field told the Guardian that he would not shy away from imposing sanctions, including fines or even possible closure notices, on practices which were found to be falling short.

Professor Field estimated that 10% of the practices in England needed to make substantial improvements, and said: ‘While we’ve got some of the best general practice in the world, it’s let down by a small percentage of practices which aren’t providing appropriate access or quality of care.’

He added: ‘I will not hesitate at all to order the closure of GP practices that we find to be unsafe, or providing poor access, or which do not care for patients properly or treat them with dignity.’

The comments from Professor Field, who starts his new role on Tuesday, come just days after the CQC named and shamed its first GP practice, warning a single-hander in Greater Manchester he could face having his services restricted or a notice to cancel his registration if he does not make urgent improvements in a number of areas.

Professor Field also told the Guardian that he believed patients should have access to routine GP appointments seven days a week, although this could be delivered through federations rather than at an individual practice level.

‘Access should be brilliant, but currently it’s patchy. A lot of patients are dissatisfied with current access and think it’s inadequate. It seems to be a huge source of frustration,’ he said.

‘I think we should move to seven-day services in general practice, where patients should be able to access a GP for advice at the weekend.’