CQC inspection bill must not fall to GPs

GPs must not foot the bill for the rising cost of CQC regulation, GP leaders warned, as a report suggested fees could double in coming years.

CQC: expansion fuelling rise in costs
CQC: expansion fuelling rise in costs

The health watchdog’s running costs are likely to rise from around £150m now to around £210m within the next year or two, CQC officials told MPs last year.

One senior GP said the CQC ‘appears to have a licence to print money that others are compelled to pick up the bill for’.

Around £100m of CQC funding comes from fees recouped from providers registered with it, while the rest comes from government grants, according to a report published on Wednesday by MPs on the House of Commons health select committee.

But MPs said shifting the full cost to registrants would increase the ‘independence’ of the CQC, and its chairman admitted it was uncertain how funding would work in future.

CQC chairman David Prior told MPs: ‘At the moment we spend about £153 million, of which £100 million comes from fees. In three years’ time we will be spending between £200 million and £210 million. I do not think our fees are going to go up by very much, but we will see.’

He said there was ‘substantial agreement' with the DH over funding, but could not confirm this had been approved by the Treasury.

MPs on the select committee, however, expressed strong support for NHS providers to foot the bill for the CQC’s running costs. The report says:  'The independence of the CQC will be substantially reinforced when arrangements are in place to ensure that the cost of regulation is met by the registrant community.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GP: ‘GPs will be alarmed but not surprised by this.

‘The CQC appears to have a licence to print money that others are compelled to pick up the bill for. At a time when practice funding is being cut year after year they cannot understand how the CQC is allowed to spend more and more.

‘The CQC is acting on behalf of the government and it should be government, not practices, that pick up any additional costs.’

Wessex LMC chief executive Dr Nigel Watson said: ‘We all support safe, effective practices that are up to acceptable standards. But the idea that you transfer the cost to the registered body is difficult.’

He said practices would be forced to cut partners drawings or cut services to cope amid steadily increasing workload and falling resources.

The MPs’ report backed the CQC’s ongoing overhaul of its inspection system, highlighting the move away from generic inspections to a more specialist regime, and the appointment of chief inspectors.

Rising CQC costs were explained as an inevitable consequence of a recruitment drive that aimed to increase the CQC’s team of inspectors from 950 to more than 1,100.

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