CQC’s new strategy and the impact of ‘Smarter regulation’ on GP Practices

On 27 May 2021, CQC launched its new strategy which it says has the purpose of enabling more effective regulation in the health and social care sector.

The strategy focuses on four themes:

  1. People and communities
  2. Smarter regulation
  3. Safety through learning
  4. Accelerating improvement

This article looks at ‘smarter regulation’ and the impact that this could have on GP practices.

What is smarter regulation?

In its new strategy the CQC says: , “We want to move away from relying on a set schedule of inspections to a more flexible, targeted approach.”  It adds: “Smarter use of data means we’ll target our resources where we can have the greatest impact, focusing on risk and where care is poor, to ensure we’re an effective, proportionate and efficient regulator.”

The move away from a set of scheduled inspections towards ‘smarter regulation’, by relying on data and focusing on risk, is likely to mean that GP practices will be inspected less often.

If there is heightened scrutiny of data and a focus on risk, a situation could arise where, for example, CQC has remote access to patient records and is able to have a ‘free run’ at reviewing records without understanding the full context. It is therefore important that the data and information gathered by CQC is fully verified before it is allowed to impact on the regulator’s assessment of risk within a practice.

Inspection reports

The new strategy also states that CQC will “move away from long reports written after inspections, and instead provide information and data to better meet the needs of all audiences”. The risk with shorter inspection reports is that they are likely to contain less detail and could, therefore, not provide the necessary context.

It is very important for GP practices to challenge what they believe to be misleading or inaccurate CQC draft inspection reports through the factual accuracy comments process. This is practices’ only opportunity to challenge the content of a report.

If a practice feels that the rating or report is inaccurate, shorter inspection reports are likely to require careful thought and consideration in order to identify areas of challenge.

If an inspection report goes unchallenged and it is subsequently published, there is a presumption that the report is accurate and the content of the report becomes the truth.

Risk-based inspection

The risk based model of inspection could lead to a disproportionate focus on GP practices that are deemed to be at greater risk than others. In turn, this could lead to an increase in enforcement action.

Criticisms in an inspection report can also form the basis of escalating enforcement action. If providers challenge any inaccuracies found by CQC during inspections at the outset, this can help to minimise the effects of further enforcement action later down the line.

If you require assistance or advice in relation to challenging CQC draft inspection reports or challenging other CQC enforcement action, our specialist solicitors can help. Please contact Ridouts Professional Services Ltd at info@ridout-law.com or by calling 0207 317 0340.

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