The CQC has announced that fees for GP practices will rise to 3.5 times their current level from next month, and will rise again to a value almost seven times higher than the existing fees in 2017/18.
The watchdog has pressed ahead with the plans despite running a consultation in which there was ‘strong preference’ for the proposed fee hike to take place over four years instead of two.
It revealed last November that GPs must cover the huge rise in fees, as government policy dictates that fee-setting regulators must recuperate their costs fully through fees income.
The CQC currently relies on grant-in-aid from the DH in addition to current fees to cover its costs.
For the 2016/17 financial year, the increase amounts to an over £1,800 increase for an average practice with 5,001-10,000 patients, from the current rate of £725.
In 2016/17, the increase in CQC fees will be offset by a £15m funding boost - worth around £2,000 per GP practice. The DH has confirmed that this funding will continue in future years, although there is no confirmation that it will rise to cover the full cost increase in 2017/18.
From 2017/18, the fee will be over 6.6 times higher, reaching £4,839 for the average practice.
GP leaders strongly criticised the move, with GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul blasting it as ‘wholly unjustified’.
Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the Family Doctor Association (FDA) warned that the CQC would be ‘feasting on the bones of general practice’ at a time when funding is already tight.
A GPonline investigation showed that the radical increase would see GPs charged a three to five times higher proportion of their funding than hospitals on CQC fees.
GP fees consultation
David Behan, chief executive of the CQC, said: ‘We understand that the scheme that has been put forward is not the one the majority of those who took part in our consultation would have preferred.
‘In order to achieve our requirement to the government and commitment to the taxpayer, we need to work towards reaching full cost recovery while reducing our overall budget by at least £32m.
‘In May, CQC will publish its strategy for 2016-21, which will set out how we will be an efficient and effective regulator with fewer resources. It is important that while we make efficiency savings, we can continue to carry out our role effectively. Over the next five years we want to develop our approach so that providers of services get more value from the work that we do, by sharing data about the quality of services and highlighting good practice.
‘The fee paid by providers is the charge for entering and remaining in a regulated sector. The public deserves nothing less than safe, high-quality and compassionate health and adult social care, and we must continue to act in their best interests.’
A DH spokeswoman said: 'We know GPs are under pressure and that is why we are giving them more support. We have agreed changes to the GP contract that include an extra £220m investment in general practice from next month - this includes funding to cover this year's increase in CQC fees.
'These fees allow CQC's tough inspection regime to drive up standards across the country, helping to make sure that all patients have access to a safer NHS, seven days a week.'