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GPs to be given two weeks’ notice before a CQC inspection

Exclusive GP practices will be given two weeks’ notice – instead of 48 hours – before a CQC inspection under major changes to the way visits are carried out from April, Pulse has learned.

Chief inspector of primary care Professor Steve Field said that the change heralds a ‘new approach’ in the way the CQC works with GP practices, aiming to support them to raise standards.

The current 48-hour notice period proved controversial when it was announced in November 2012, with the CQC reasoning that it prevented practices from ‘overpreparing’, leading to practices having to hire extra staff so they are sufficiently prepared.

However, the regulator has also reserved the right for unannounced inspections to practices identified as being at-risk.

Professor Field outlined the new inspection regime earlier this year, including greater use of specialist inspectors, questions on how compassionate the care provided is and Ofsted-style ratings, which will begin to be published from October.

The CQC will announce this week the first tranche of 12 CCG areas where practices will be inspected and Pulse has also learnt that the controversial policy of 48-hours’ notice currently given to practices will be ditched in favour of giving two day’s notice.

A CQC statement said: ‘This week the CQC will be sending out letters to 12 CCG areas chosen to form part of the first wave of new GP inspections, they have been chosen at random for a representative geographical spread.

‘CCGs are being given at least four weeks advance notice that their area has been selected and GP practices in those areas will have at least two weeks’ notice of an inspection as opposed to the previous 48 hours, CQC reserve the right however to inspect unannounced at any time where a practice is identified as a risk. These inspections will only include practices that have not yet been visited by the CQC.’

Professor Field said: ‘This first wave of the new style inspection heralds a new approach that’s not about catching people out but about working with and supporting general medical practice. We will be learning on these inspections and genuinely want feedback on our approach which will start in earnest in October when we will also begin to rate practices.’

Dr John Hughes, the GPC member for Manchester, Salford, Trafford and Stockport, said that the longer notice would give practices more time to prepare.

He said: ‘It is slightly helpful in that it gives practices time to prepare well with the interruption of a major visit, and they can get locum cover for surgeries. But it doesn’t address the fundamental problem in that there is still a total lack of clarity about what standards and criteria the inspectors are using.’