CQC criticised for incorrect patient safety risk assessments

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The CQC has been forced to apologise to a number of GPs for providing incorrect patient safety risk assessment results.  This follows a BBC investigation into the calculations for the risk based banding system applied to individual GP practices.

The banding system is used as part of CQC’s pre-inspection information gathering process for GP practices. It is intended to help CQC prioritise the inspection of those services that are considered to be high-risk.  CQC gather information relating to a range of ‘indicators’ which are then analysed to create priority banding.  The bandings range from 1-6 with band 1 representing the highest priority.  The results of the banding process are published on CQC’s website.

The BBC investigation found serious errors in the calculations used by CQC which has led to one indicator being removed altogether and further four indicators requiring refinement based on revisions to data provided to CQC by NHS England.

The changes to the calculations has led to approximately 60 practices being lifted out of the two ‘high concern’ bands and four practices, previously judged as low risk, being moved into the higher risk bands.

In reaction to the results CQC issued a briefing outlining the mistake and the changes being made to the indicators.    It stated that CQC would contact each of the practices affected to apologise for any concern this may have caused.  CQC also stressed that the banding system is not a judgement and this process would never be used in isolation to make a final judgement or produce a rating of a GP practice.

Sir Mike Richards, the Chief inspector of Hospitals, said “This only became apparent when we ran the data on the thousands of practices rather than just the hundreds that we tested them on.”  He added “We are using the data to help us know where we might go first.  Our judgements come from a combination of data and inspection.  The main thing that is going to matter is that we are going to be inspecting every practice.”

Commenting on the error, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the GP committee chair at the British Medical Association said The banding system as a whole needs to be withdrawn. We warned at the time that simplistic targets would fail to take into account the enormous pressures GP practices are facing, and that skewed and limited information does not tell us about the quality of care. These failings have the potential to seriously undermine the trust in the system and patients’ confidence in their GP and it is only right that all of those practices affected are now contacted and receive a full apology.”

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