The CQC has announced that they will be giving GPs at least two weeks’ notice of their intention to inspect GP services. The announcement follows the completion of its first round of inspections of GP practices. GP’s inspected in the first tranche were given 48 hours warning that inspectors were due.
Prior to the first round of inspections last year CQC announced that any longer than 48 hours’ notice would allow GP’s too much time to prepare for inspections, allowing them to tackle failings which might otherwise have gone unchecked. However, yesterday Professor Steve Field, the chief inspector of primary care, announced a U-turn in this reasoning stating that practices will now be allowed at least 2 weeks’ warning before inspections. He said that the change “heralds a new approach that’s not about catching people out but about working with and supporting general medical practice. We will be learning on these inspections and genuinely want feedback on our approach which will start in earnest in October when we will also begin to rate practices.” CQC reserved their right to carry out unannounced inspections to practices identified as being at risk.
Patient groups and MPs have criticised CQC for ‘caving in’ to pressure from GPs following a backlash after the first round of inspections. CQC’s findings from the first round of inspections concluded in December 2013 that one in three practices were failing to meet basic standards of care.
Commenting on the change, Joyce Robins from Patient Concern said “This is a great shame, the regulator should be thinking about the interests of patients – who need surgeries to be up to scratch all the time, not caving into GPs who weren’t happy about negative publicity.” She added “two weeks is enough time to get the cleaners in, and hire more staff, let alone get rid of an infestation of maggots.”
Charlotte Leslie, a Conservative member of the Commons Health Select Committee, said “it seems to me very concerning that the CQC seem to be softening their approach to inspection. Two weeks is enough time for any GP practice to give itself a facelift; we need inspectors to give us a true picture, warts and all.”