Decision to scrap CQC risk bands is a victory for common sense, say GPs

The RCGP has hailed the CQC's decision to listen to advice from GPs and scrap its heavily-criticised risk banding system 'as a victory for common sense'.

Dr Maureen Baker: CQC change 'victory for common sense' (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Maureen Baker: CQC change 'victory for common sense' (Photo: Pete Hill)

After appeals from GPs, the CQC has committed to no longer giving practices a risk score ahead of their inspections as part of its intelligent monitoring system.

The watchdog apologised to GPs on Friday - almost five months after the bands were initially made public in November - for presenting and publishing the data in the way it did.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the decision. He 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.’

Risk bands 'shook GP confidence'

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘CQC inspections were introduced to demonstrate that patients were receiving high quality care from their GP practice.

‘But anomalies in the banding systems resulted in confusing patients and shaking the confidence of hard-working GPs across the country, at a time when they are already trying to deliver excellent care in very difficult circumstances.’

But Dr Vautrey warned that some of the damage had already been done, as many supposedly ‘high risk’ practices were highlighted via local media outlets as ‘failing’ or being among the worst in their area.

‘I think the next step is for those in the media, particularly in the local press, who misused the information and tarnished the good names of GPs to apologise as well, because they deserve their reputation to be restored,’ he said.

Future systems

Dr Baker added that the RCGP will continue to engage in ‘constructive discussions with the CQC’ to ensure future systems are fit for purpose and can be trusted by GPs.

Dr Vautrey said it was important to recognise ‘natural variation’ when using similar data in the future.

He said: ‘There's a whole host of information about practices and I think the important thing is to recognise that there is often natural variation and a very good explanation for it.

‘That should be used to inform inspections and to prompt questions, but should not be used to come to swift judgments. That’s where they’ve got into difficulties over the use of the banding. We should get to the position where we use data as a developmental process and a learning tool not as a mechanism for swift judgment.’

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