By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: As many as half of GP practices could fail standards set by the Care Quality Commission due to the poor state of their premises, experts have warned.
There is mounting concern among GP leaders that many practices will fall foul of the regulator due to faults with buildings, particularly with disability access and waiting-area confidentiality, amid calls for the CQC to adopt a ‘light touch’.
Last week GPs at the Probus Surgery in Grampound, Cornwall, cited fears their premises would not pass a CQC inspection as a reason for closing.
The CQC is currently due to register all GP practices by next April, although the body has asked the Department of Health to extend that deadline.
GPs will have to demonstrate compliance across areas such as practice security, infection control and fire safety.
Rachel Beverley-Stevenson, chief executive at specialist premises developer One Medical, said: ‘It is likely half the practices in England will fail on at least one criterion, particularly those in converted houses rather than modern, purpose-built premises.’
Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator, agreed ‘upwards of 40%’ of practices could fail to comply.
‘The average age of a general practice estate is approaching 40 years and this is a consequence of 17 years of neglect under successive governments,’ he said.
‘As far as premises goes, you are only required to comply where practicable. If there is not resource, then you’ve done what you can. They’re going to have to enforce it like this, otherwise you’d be closing down 40-50% of practices.
‘My concern is, the thinkers at the top know exactly what they mean. But the CQC on the ground is a bunch of clipboard-wielding people who are ‘just following the rules, guv’.’
Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said: ‘We don’t want nonsense like being told to take out our carpets or remove toys from consulting rooms, as is rumoured to be the case. If you write hospital-type standards we will all fall foul.’
A CQC spokesperson said GPs would be able to declare non-compliance if they had a plan to address outstanding issues: ‘The CQC recognises premises might be a concern for some providers, particularly where the building is registered or leased.’
Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator