NHS managers trying to force GP practices to prepare for registration with the CQC early have been slapped down by the regulator, it has been revealed.
In a move to reassure GPs over registration, the CQC has also pledged that surgeries won't be closed over not having disabled access and that supporting evidence won't always be necessary to prove compliance with standards.
However, GP leaders warn that the beleaguered commission is likely face a shake-up and the requirements for registration may change before April 2013, when regulation of GPs begins.
In answers to questions submitted by members of the Family Doctor Association, the CQC said it was taking a tough line over PCTs which have jumped the regulatory gun, as Pulse reported recently.
A response from the regulator said: ‘PCTs should not be telling practices to do things in the name of CQC.'
‘GP practices are not subject to regulation by CQC until April 2013 and where we have found out that this has gone on we have spoken to the PCTs involved and will continue to do so.'
The regulator also said it would trust ‘honest declarations' of compliance from practices, though it warns that such a declaration is legally binding, adding: ‘Failure to declare possible non-compliance is a serious issue.'
The CQC said practices would be allowed to declare themselves ‘non-compliant' with core standards if they also had a clear programme to meet these in time.
‘We expect a practice which is delivering good quality care to already be meeting the majority, if not all, of the essential standards,' it says. ‘We do not require evidence of compliance to be sent in with the application form.'
There are reassurances too that toy boxes, carpets, curtains or books in waiting rooms are unlikely to cause any concerns or lead to a failure on standards, as long as any risks have been identified. If a building does not have disabled access, GPs would have to show that they have identified any risks and taken ‘reasonable steps' to manage them, for instance.
Dr Michael Taylor, former chair of the FDA and a GP in Heywood, Lancashire, attended consultation meetings with the CQC and said the regulator was looking at ways of making registration easier for practices.
He said: ‘They are looking at different ways of making it easy for practices to be able to skip through the hoops. They suspect that 80-90% of practices will be performing OK.
‘RCGP accredited or training practices are likely to be waved through as they will already be having visits from another authority. For those practices who don't have that it's likely they will have to justify themselves a bit better. Those where there are worries will be visited.'
However, he warned that these early signals may be subject to change. ‘There's a lot of hot air and activity around the CQC at the moment and rumblings in Government about how to make it more effective. The cards have been thrown in the air and we are waiting to see how they come down. ‘
‘However, there's no reason for GPs to be anxious at this moment.'