Exclusive: CQC ratings suggest 50% more GP practices than expected could face closure

CQC inspectors are on track to hand 'inadequate' ratings to 100 more GP practices than expected, according to data from the first 10% of practices assessed by the watchdog.

CQC: ratings suggest higher proportion of inadequate practices than expected
CQC: ratings suggest higher proportion of inadequate practices than expected

CQC chief inspector for primary care Professor Steve Field suggested last September that around 2% of practices were at risk of an ‘inadequate’ rating, meaning they could face closure if they fail to improve.

The estimate, announced before the scheme rolled out in October, was based on preliminary data from the scheme’s pilots, which ran throughout 2014. This led to suggestions that up to 200 practices were at risk of receiving the lowest possible rating.

But the latest figures – based on ratings for 10% of all practices in England – suggest this number could be 50% higher if current trends continue.

Map: GP ratings by CCG

The vast majority of GP practices assessed have received 'good' (82%) or 'outstanding' (3.2%) ratings from the CQC. But the CQC’s latest batch of practice ratings raised the number rated ‘inadequate’ (3.4%) marginally ahead of those rated ‘outstanding’ for the first time.

The current figures stand at 24 ‘outstanding’ and 26 ‘inadequate’. Previously, the number of ‘outstanding’ ratings had remained consistently ahead.

The CQC has previously stated that it would prioritise rating ‘higher risk’ practices in the first waves of the inspection process, suggesting that the proportion could fall. But GP analysis shows that only 14% of practices rated so far were categorised in Band 1 or Band 2 (risky) under the watchdog's controversial 'intelligent monitoring' system ahead of their inspection.

High-risk priority

A total of 16% of practices were placed into these high-risk bands, suggesting that the most concerning practices have actually been proportionally less likely to be rated than those in higher bands.

Although it has now scrapped its risk-band approach, the CQC has confirmed that practices will continue to be ‘stratified’ by risk to inform inspections.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the scheme was still in its infancy, and he would expect the data to be skewed towards the negative end of the scale as the CQC initially targeted practices that were considered riskier.

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