GP fury as CQC ranks practices without inspecting them

GPs have reacted with fury to the CQC's decision to publish data ranking practices on a six-point scale without inspecting them, calling it a 'huge cock-up' that threatens to mislead patients and damage GP morale.

Dr Robert Morley: CQC scheme is a huge cock-up
Dr Robert Morley: CQC scheme is a huge cock-up

The watchdog has published details of its system for targeting inspections at high-risk practices first.

Using data from the QOF, patient surveys and other publicly available information, the CQC ranked practices on a scale from band 1 (highest risk) to band six (lowest risk).

A map available on the CQC website shows the risk band allocated to every GP practice in the country, with those in the highest risk bands likely to be inspected first.

Inspections of GP practices under the revamped CQC inspection scheme began in October – but just two practices have been handed official ratings by the watchdog, both of them ‘outstanding’.

Risk bands 'not a judgment'

Although the CQC’s website says its map of practices’s risk bands ‘ isn’t a judgment on GPs’, the tool generated the Daily Mail headline ‘One in six GP surgeries is failing’.

Scores of local media outlets have written about failing practices, and reported that practices have been ranked for the first time.

Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said: ‘This is a huge-cock-up, symptomatic of the CQC.’

He questioned the fitness for purpose of the indicators used by the watchdog to place practices in bands.

‘Lots of the data aren’t in any way a good means of determining the quality of care a practice gives – they are out of context, they might be related to issues that are out of practice control, and might reflect retired QOF indicators.

‘But having made the decision to use this information, it should just have been an internal tool to prioritise visits.

Disgraceful decision

‘It doesn’t make any sense to publish these as a ranking on a website available to the public and the media.’

He said suggestions that practices were failing based on this data were ‘disgraceful’.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Publishing data with no context about a GP practice before inspectors have even arrived will at best confuse patients and at worst mislead them. It will not give an accurate picture of how GP services are operating.

‘The information does not take into account the differing circumstances GP practices operate in, including levels of deprivation in the community they deliver care to or the state of their facilities.

"These and other factors outside of their control, could have a major impact on how well a practice performs on this dashboard of indicators. Patients will not be made aware of this because of the simplistic way CQC is presenting the data.

‘This system will add still further to the micro-managing of GPs that is already getting in the way of treating patients. The CQC must revisit these proposals if it is to gain the confidence of GPs and patients.’

Launching the banding tool on Monday, CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field said: 'It is important to remember that the data is not a judgment, as it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care.

'The data is a further tool that will help us to decide where to inspect and when.'

Click here to find out your practice's 'risk band'

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