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Private APMS provider has three practices put in special measures by CQC

A private APMS provider in the north-west of England has had three of its practices deemed inadequate by the CQC, with a further practice rated as needing improvement.

The GP-led private company SSP Health had its Seaforth Village Surgery, Hightown Surgery and Kensington Park Surgery put into special measures following inspections in March and April.

Local GP leaders said problems stemmed from the competitively tendered contracts for the practices being unviable in the first place.

However, SSP Health said it is in the process of contesting the CQC’s reports of inadequacies at the practices. The provider has had two other practices inspected so far, both of which were given a ‘good’ rating.

The three practices are among only 28 to be given a rating of inadequate across the whole of England so far.

In the inspection reports, the CQC said that its practices:

  • Put patients ‘at risk of harm because systems and processes were not in place to keep them safe’ (Seaforth);
  • Failed to report safety incidents (Seaforth);
  • Did not have adequte leadership (Seaforth & Hightown);
  • Failed to put in place systems to promote patient safety were not embedded at practice level (Hightown);
  • Was ‘not caring towards patients’ (Hightown);
  • Failed to carry out ‘sufficiently thorough’ reviews and investigations, while ‘lessons learnt were not communicated widely enough to support improvement’ (Kensington Park).

But Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC, said SSP Health had taken on the practices under difficult circumstances after the LMC had pointed out the contracts put out to tender by Liverpool PCT in the first place were not deliverable.

Dr Barnett said: ‘The LMC was critical of the contract but the PCT nevertheless decided it was safe and went ahead with the tender.

‘In our view, the contract wasn’t doable because it required the provider to deliver 70 appointments per 1,000 patients per week – to staff the practices with that sort of ratio, whether regulated or not, is extremely difficult and requires a lot of doctors to be moved around.’

SSP Health – which runs around 40 practices in all – has so far had two other practices inspected by the CQC.  Its Everton Road Surgery and Thornton Practice were both found to be ‘good’ earlier in the year.

The provider told Pulse it rejected the criticisms of the other four practices and is waiting for the outcome of a CQC review of their ratings.

In a statement, SSP Health joint owner Dr Shikha Pitalia said: ‘We are concerned that some CQC inspectors have been inconsistent in their approach and made contradictory statements in the report failing to follow the CQC’s own processes in reaching conclusions.’

Dr Pitalia added: ‘There is concern that during a volatile time for the NHS, the CQC teams who inspected some of our practices have perhaps been unduly influenced by politically-motivated comments from groups and lobbies opposed to any change in the NHS.

‘We have formally asked for some rating to be reviewed and await the CQC website to be updated with this request, submitted almost four weeks ago. We are told that the CQC has a backlog of requests.’