A spokesman for the watchdog told GP it had tried to mitigate the risk of information from its 'intelligent monitoring' tool being presented as a league table and had briefed the media on how it should be interpreted.
The publication on Monday of details of its system for targeting inspections at high-risk practices first provoked fury from GPs.
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).
Practice risk ratings published
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 at the time the CQC unveiled its risk tool, just two practices had been handed official ratings by the watchdog, both of them ‘outstanding’.
CQC said publishing the perceived risk level data was not a judgment of service quality.
But scores of media outlets across England responded by highlighting ‘high risk’ practices in their area based on which risk band the CQC has placed them in. The Daily Mail reported that one in six practices were failing.
One CQC official insisted on Twitter that assigning practices a number on a scale of one to six based on perceived risk level was 'not ranking', suggesting the media had failed to report the information sensibly.
@nickbostock @GPonlinenews @drbobmorley They're not rankings! It's an indication of risk which informs inspection planning— Matthew Silk (@MatSilk) November 18, 2014
GPC member and Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley responded: "So CQC expected the Daily Mail to report this sensibly?’
@MatSilk @nickbostock So @CareQualityComm expected the Daily Mail to report this sensibly?— Dr Robert Morley (@drbobmorley) November 18, 2014
A CQC spokesman said the watchdog did not have control over the media and it was ‘disappointing that despite our best efforts, our analysis has been misrepresented to suggest that practices are failing – we do not support this accusation’.
He added: ‘We are clear that our judgements of general practices can only be formed once we have carried out an inspection. We are keen to demonstrate outstanding practice when we find it, including by highlighting the first two practices to be awarded with this rating two days ago.’
The spokesman added that CQC had 'worked closely with GPs, listening and acting on their feedback in creating this tool'.
Dr Morley has called the publication of the data a ‘huge-cock-up, symptomatic of the CQC’.
Risk tool questioned
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.
‘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’.