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GPs ‘threatened with breach of contract’ as CQC standards enforced early

Exclusive GPs are coming under pressure from NHS managers to begin preparing their premises to meet Care Quality Commission standards immediately, despite the deadline for registration being pushed back until April 2013.

LMC leaders in Manchester claim GPs in the city have been threatened with ‘breach of contract' action if they fail to meet a new PCT standard for premises brought in to help prepare practices for CQC registration.

It comes as practices elsewhere reported that they had come under such pressure over CQC registration before the deadline was moved back that they had shelled out hundreds of pounds for software that might now be redundant.

GPs have been given just three months to meet the new ‘Manchester Standard', a balanced scorecard that combines a series of contractual requirements with premises standards designed to ready practices for CQC inspection.

Dr John Hughes, honorary secretary of Manchester LMC, said: ‘We support the idea of practices making aspirational improvements in the long term, but we feel the Manchester Standard muddles contractual and aspirational requirements. It has led to considerable worries among practices. I've been approached by practices concerned about the PCT elevating matters to a contract breach.'

A spokesperson at NHS Manchester attempted to allay fears over the three-month deadline, saying it could be extended and applied only to contractual obligations, but admitted discussions were ongoing concerning the interpretation of ‘recommendations versus contractual obligations'.

The PCT was ‘committed to supporting practices to prepare for registration for the CQC', the spokesperson added.

The row comes as GP leaders urged practices not to invest in support to meet CQC requirements until these have been clarified. Private companies have begun selling GP practices software and consultancy services to help prepare for CQC registration, with some packages costing in excess of £2,000.

Dr Philip Fielding, chair of Gloucestershire LMC, said his practice had been ‘caught out' by the CQC delay after purchasing software from a private firm.

‘There was a lot of pressure over CQC before the delay was announced. My practice invested between £300 and £400 in software,' he said.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair, said: ‘We are urging GPs not to enter into any contract with any outside firm or bow to any PCT pressure on CQC.'