CQC registration will depend on practice links with social care

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will extend its annual rating scheme for NHS trusts to 'rolling ratings' of GP practices, including measures of how well they link to social care.

Baroness Young: focus on links
Baroness Young: focus on links

CQC chairman Baroness Young told delegates at a Westminster Health Forum event last week that 'a key focus' will be how practices join up with social care and other health services. 'We will ask pointed questions about how providers are joining up,' she said.

Quality ratings will be published for each service provider from as early as 2011, when practices will be required to meet 16 essential standards of quality and safety as part of the CQC's registration system.

Baroness Young warned that there will be 'a lot of work to be done for the laggards to reach a registration condition'.

Information on practices will be used to assess the risk they pose to the public before a judgment on quality is published, she added. 'We have to nip poor performers in the bud before it happens rather than just report on it after.'

After the event, GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said the proposals must be not be overly burdensome.

'These ratings will only have some meaning for practices and patients if they are achievable, fair and externally validated, with the backing of the profession.

'Individual practice circumstances such as past and present funding, premises and workload factors should be taken into account,' she said.

Encouraging integration with social care could make a 'big difference' to patient care, but must be measured carefully, said Dr McCarron-Nash.

Concluding her speech, Ms Young also suggested a separate financial regulator should be established to ensure value, with another to monitor the quality of companies entering the NHS market.

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