Complaints about GP practices on social media could trigger CQC visit

Practices could soon face unannounced CQC visits if patients complain about them on social media, as the watchdog reveals it is exploring new avenues of gathering intelligence on GPs.

CQC chief inspector of primary care Professor Steve Field

The CQC is looking to scour social media as part of its drive to become more data-driven in the way it monitors GP practices, ahead of launching its updated inspection programme next year.

It announced in May that it would overhaul inspections to rely more heavily on intelligence at the launch of its Shaping the Future strategy for 2016-2021.

Chief inspector for primary care Professor Steve Field has now confirmed the CQC is expanding the sources it will use to keep tabs on practices as part of this – which will include social media and local newspaper coverage.

The new strategy will make heavier use of unannounced inspections should the CQC suspect a practice is at risk of providing poor care.

Practices rated good and outstanding will usually not be revisited for three to five years after their initial rating – unless the CQC uncovers information it considers to be of concern when collecting information on practices.

Map: CQC GP ratings

Speaking last month at the Best Practice show in Birmingham, Professor Field said: ‘Our role is to make sure we register the providers of care, that we monitor their activity – so at the moment we collect data on general practice using NHS Digital, we look at QOF results – we are starting to look at social media – and we look at newspaper cuttings.

‘We make sure that we've got both the softer side of intelligence as well as the hard side of intelligence, so that we can focus our inspection activity on areas where we worry.’

A CQC spokesman added that there were ‘no firm conclusions’ yet on how social media platforms will be monitored to inform GP inspections.

The Shaping the Future strategy says: ‘We need to develop our monitoring to make best use of available information, especially from the public, who can be our eyes and ears in services.’

It adds: ‘We will use our information from the public and providers more effectively to target our resources where the risk to the quality of care provided is greatest and to check where quality is improving, and we will introduce a more proportionate approach to registration.’

The watchdog will hold a consultation in spring 2017 on proposed changes to its primary care inspection model.

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