The watchdog agreed to abolish its risk band system following consultation with GP leaders on Thursday, and also pledged to change the language it uses to define variation between practices ‘so that it does not imply a risk to patient safety’.
GPs expressed fury in the wake of the CQC publishing its risk bands in November – assigned to practices before they had been inspected – with leaders warning they misrepresented practices and could put the impartiality of official ratings at risk.
The publication of risk scores led to claims that one in six GP practices in England were failing, although the watchdog said its intelligent monitoring system was not meant to be a judgment on practice performance.
GP previously revealed that one practice awarded the top rating of ‘outstanding’ had been inaccurately called out as high risk by the banding system just months before.
A CQC statement signed by chief inspector Professor Steve Field and chief executive David Behan said it had ‘listened to the concerns of the GP profession’ and will now issue all GP practices in England a letter of apology explaining the changes.
'What we published wasn't right'
The letter said: ‘What we published wasn’t right regarding the use of language around risk, and on the analysis of variation between practices. We apologise. We also acknowledge that bandings have been perceived as judgements about the quality of care. That was not our intent but today we confirm we are removing them for GP Intelligent Monitoring nonetheless.’
The changes follow on from a CQC board meeting earlier this week, in which the watchdog pushed back its target to inspect and rate all practices by six months because it could not meet its original deadline.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘We are pleased that the CQC has acted on our concerns and agreed to abolish the banding system until a suitable alternative can be agreed by all relevant parties.'
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We’ve been clear from the outset that this was wrong, it’s something we’ve been pushing them very strongly on since the intelligent monitoring system was published last year.
'It was fundamentally flawed, and it’s good that they’ve now recognised that and will not use banding arrangements in the future.'