In the first week of June 2016, CQC published 85 reports on inspections of GP practices. In this most recent tranche, 80% have been found to be Good or Outstanding; reflecting the general statistical trends in ratings since CQC started inspecting GP practices in October 2014. Since that time, only around 100 practices have been rated inadequate; a significant minority, made smaller by the fact that 46 such practices have now successfully exited from the Special Measures regime.
In April 2016, CQC, NHS England and the GMC published a joint ‘statement of intent’ confirming their intention to “improve the experience of regulation” for GPs and their practices. The statement supported CQC’s January 2016 consultation into its 5 year plan, and went further by including improvements specific to the GP sector. Central to the statement was CQC’s commitment to developing the way in which inspectors gather, analyse and subsequently share information; with the intention of targeting and tailoring inspections of GP practices to focus on those with greatest need.
This aim has been formalised by its inclusion in the summary goals of the recently published ‘Shaping the future: CQC’s strategy for 2016 to 2021’. Among the headlines of the Report are a number targeted specifically at the General Practice sector; namely to:
- Work with partners to reduce duplication for GP practices and dental providers, agreeing jointly what action should be taken by whom where there may be risks of poor quality care.
- Agree a data request with the General Medical Council and NHS England so that GP practices only need to provide a single description of their quality based on the five key questions.
- Move to a maximum interval of five years for inspecting GP practices rated good and outstanding – subject to general practices providing accurate and full data, and CQC having confidence that quality has not changed significantly.
- Focus on areas where there may be emerging risks, or where CQC needs to understand more about innovative models of care, for example independent doctors or digital health providers.
Whilst GPs will applaud the reduction in the duplication of regulation, the real highlight could be said to be the introduction of an extended interval between CQC inspections. Given the numerous demands upon their inspectors, this proposal seeks to reduce the necessity for random inspections of practices which have no causes for concern and instead focuses resources on those practices linked to reports of poor care. Those practices which do not meet with approval will however be subject to much greater scrutiny, with those rated as ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’ being inspected every twelve and six months respectively.
This new system, which will be rolled out as part of CQC’s 5 year strategy, means that never before has it been more important to make sure that your practice is ready for inspection.
All the time, resource, and financial costs involved in proactively preparing your practice for an inspection in this inspection cycle will pay dividends in the form of a potential 5 year hiatus until you experience that pressure again. It is therefore very much a case of short term pain for long term gain.