When the watchdog’s revamped inspection regime began last October, it planned to inspect England’s 8,000 GP practices by April 2016.
The ambitious target meant the CQC would have to visit and assess more than 100 practices a week.
At the time, the watchdog’s senior GP adviser Professor Nigel Sparrow said the CQC was ‘confident’ it could meet the target.
But speaking at a Westminster policy forum event this February, deputy chief inspector for primary care Dr Janet Williamson said the CQC now aimed to ‘inspect all practices by September 2016’ – five months later than previously stated.
The CQC refused to confirm or deny whether the deadline had been relaxed, but a spokesman said it would ‘consider our business plan for the coming year’ at a board meeting in March.
The GPC aired fears when the new inspection regime began that the tight time limit could compromise the fairness of ratings. Chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said CQC should not set ‘arbitrary’ time limits at all.
As part of its initial target, the CQC committed to inspecting 778 GP practices and out-of-hours services by 1 January 2015. The latest figures show that between 1 October and 5 February, 979 practices were visited by inspectors, according to Dr Williamson.
The CQC will have to significantly step up the pace of inspections to meet even the potential extended target.
Must pick up pace
At its current pace of around 1,000 practices every five months, it would take over 40 months – more than three years – to visit them all, and longer still to release the ratings.
By 5 February, the regulator had published ratings for 203 practices, equivalent to under 3% of all practices in England and 21% of those that have been inspected.
The vast majority were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ (84%), while 13% were told to make improvements and 3% were found ‘inadequate’.
Dr Williamson said those yet to be inspected will be constantly reassessed under the watchdog’s intelligent monitoring system, despite ‘inaccuracies’ in the data.