Exclusive: GP leader suggests CQC boycott as MPs fear it won't cope with registration

GPs could declare 'mass non-compliance' with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to express their frustration with the government, a GP leader has said, as MPs warn the regulator may not cope with GP registration.

Dr Holden: 'This is about the profession standing up for itself'
Dr Holden: 'This is about the profession standing up for itself'

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden called on GPs to declare ‘mass non-compliance’ with the Care Quality Commission, as a way to demonstrate to the government that they were fed up with reforms, without affecting patient care.

‘This is about the profession standing up for itself. I think GPs are so fed up with the government over matters such as pensions that they just might [declare non-compliance]. It would not harm patients,’ Dr Holden said.

His comments came as the public accounts committee (PAC) issued a report warning that the CQC faced a ‘major challenge’ in registering 10,000 GP practices.

Margaret Hodge (Labour, Barking, east London), PAC chairwoman, said: ‘The CQC…has clearly been struggling for some time and the DH, which is ultimately responsible, has not had a grip on what the Commission has been doing.

‘We are far from convinced that the CQC is up to the major challenge of registering and assessing 10,000 GP practices this year.'

According to the PAC, the CQC's work suffered in the past when it registered large groups of providers. It shifted its focus to registration and carried out far fewer inspections than planned, it said.

Although the CQC changed the registration process for GPs to address this problem, the PAC warned that deciding GP registration on information provided by the practice themselves also carried risks.

‘The Commission must make sure the registration process is robust and provides meaningful assurance about the quality of GP practices,’ the PAC said.

The PAC also recommended that the CQC should develop clear criteria to help it judge when it needed to undertake further investigations before a practice could be registered.

Responding to the criticisms, the CQC argued that the PAC’s report had been based on old information and failed to recognise the significant improvements of recent months.

It argued that GPs would be subject to the same monitoring and inspections as the rest of the NHS and that every registration application would be reviewed in conjunction with information from other sources including the GMC. 

‘If we have concerns, we will visit the practice and conduct an interview - as we have already done with out-of-hours providers,’ the CQC said.

Commenting on the PAC report, NHS Confederation deputy chief executive David Stout said: ‘The committee's recommendations reflect very closely many of the concerns our members have raised about the way the CQC operates.

‘We have clearly questioned whether the operation of the CQC was fit for purpose. An effective regulator needs a clear role if it is to earn the confidence of the organisations it regulates.’

Health minister Simon Burns said: 'We are determined to strengthen the role of CQC as an effective regulator for patients and the public. That is why the CQC is currently undertaking the biggest ever programme of unannounced inspections, and using its powers to improve services where it finds poor performance.

'To do this, we have delayed the registration of most providers of NHS primary medical services until April 2013, agreed funding from April 2012 for an additional 229 inspectors and relaxed the recruitment freeze to allow them to fill vacancies.'

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