GP practices that are judged ‘inadequate’ in a number of areas by the new CQC inspections will be placed in ‘special measures’ and given six months to turn things around before having their registration removed, the regulator announced today.
As part of the previously flagged proposals, the CQC has said that where ‘aspects of service’ are deemed inadequate, practices will have six months to make improvements before being placed in special measures.
The special measures will allow the CQC and NHS England to oversee the practice and set out clear expectations for improvement. If there are no sufficient improvements within a further six months, the practice will have its registration removed, the regulator has said.
The RCGP and BMA said it’s important to identify and tackle poor care, but warned that public trust could be damaged by highlighting isolated incidences of poor care.
The chief inspector for primary care, Professor Steve Field, has told Pulse that practices would have opportunities before inspection to highlight the pressures they were facing, including workforce, funding and premises, which would be taken into account.
In a statement released today, the CQC said: ‘The proposals suggest that where aspects of a service are rated ‘inadequate’, practices will have six months to improve.’
‘If they fail to improve they will be put into special measures and if after a maximum of a further six months they are still found to be inadequate, they will have their registration with CQC cancelled and/or their contract terminated by NHS England.’
The regulator said that, in the worst cases, practices will be put in special measures immediately.
It added: ‘Where, at the end of special measures, if the provider fails to improve and their registration is cancelled or where a contract is terminated by NHS England there would be joint planning between CQC and NHS England to ensure that patients registered at the practice continue to receive GP services,’
Professor Steve Field explained that a practice found inadequate in several areas would go to a national review board before they were placed in special measures.
Professor Field told Pulse: ‘We also want [practices] to tell us what the problems are, so if it’s a really lousy premises, and that’s causing them to be inadequate, we will be honest and report that. So they will get the chance.’
But he added: ‘There are some other practices which are just grossly inadequate; it’s not my job to build them a new surgery.’
But GP leaders warned that this announcement was not helpful at a time of ‘unprecedented crisis’ for the profession.
Chair of the GPC’s contracts and regulation subcommittee Dr Robert Morley told Pulse that the announcement was ‘sad’ and asked how the CQC proposed to succeed where NHS England had already failed.
He said: ‘It’s very sad that this is coming in now, in a time of unprecedented crisis for the profession, in terms of lack of funding, premises not being fit for purpose due to inadequate investment.’
‘The profession as a whole is really struggling with the increased blame culture in the NHS. I haven’t seen anything that says the CQC is either going to improve the overall quality of care, or be able to weed out the really bad practices, in the same way that NHS England hasn’t managed to do that.’
The RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker, said that, though the RCGP would have no role in inspection: ‘We welcome the opportunity to play a significant role in supporting GPs and practices to deliver the best care they possibly can to their patients.’
‘Our involvement will also ensure that the so-called “special measures” do not become another stick with which to beat hardworking GPs, and that they do not damage patient care by increasing the already unrealistic workloads of GPs who are doing their absolute best to meet patient needs.’
The new regime will also include a GP inspector as part of every team, and gives practices a minimum of two weeks to prepare for routine inspections – though this can be waived where a complaint has been made.
However, the scheme has been under fire during its pilot phase, for claiming support for its OFSTED rating system, using inspectors with only marginal training and variable inspection standards that have seen the tops of cupboards checked for dust.