The GPC has warned that practices are struggling to cope with current demand in the face of decreasing resources and would struggle to extend their opening hours.
The CQC is set to extend its primary care regulation role over the next two years and has warned that this could include probing GP access.
In a consultation launched this month on its hospital inspection regime, called A new start, it warned that GP practices could be assessed on whether they are open at times to ‘suit the needs of the local population’.
The CQC plans to consult this year on plans for a chief inspector of primary care and a ratings system for GP practices.
Over the next two years, it will review and develop its plans to inspect general practice, out-of-hours and dental services.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the CQC should be looking at the ‘essential requirements’ of general practice and said the proposals were ‘unhelpful and simply raise anxiety inappropriately’.
‘They should also be clear that practices have limited and shrinking resources, with increasing demands being placed on practitioners almost daily, and so practices, like all other parts of the health service will struggle with access,' he said. 'It would be completely unreasonable to expect practices to open beyond their contracted hours. To do so would make the in-hours service worse as limited resources are spread more thinly.’
The DH’s former national clinical lead for quality and productivity for England, Sir John Oldham, warned that GP access was likely to be ‘raising its head again’, in an interview with GP this month.
From October, the CQC will start to inspect and regulate NHS acute hospitals. In December, it will begin to rate NHS acute trusts and NHS foundation acute trusts, aiming to complete them before the end of 2015.
The CQC’s chief inspector teams will include ‘independent clinical and other experts’ and will use information from staff and patients.
It said inspectors will issue ratings to services to ‘highlight good and outstanding cares, expose mediocre and inadequate care and encourage services to improve’.