CQC special measures regime will save struggling GP practices, but 'tiny number' face closure

The CQC has begun the process of shutting down a 'tiny number' of struggling GP practices, according to its chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field.

But most practices placed in special measures by the watchdog will benefit from the regime and should improve enough to cast off their 'inadequate' rating, he told GPonline.

The Priory Avenue Surgery in Reading has made ‘significant improvements’ since entering special measures which would have been impossible without the scheme, Professor Field said.

But he added that the quality of some practices has been ‘shocking’, confirming that CQC has also commenced action to cancel the registration of a small ‘single-figure’ number of practices that failed to improve by the time of their follow-up inspection.

Read more: Professor Steve Field on 'shocking' practices

From now on, there will be a steady stream of practices leaving special measures as the watchdog revisits the 57 practices placed in the support regime after an 'inadequate' rating.

Struggling practices can move out of special measures in one of two ways – either they improve enough to no longer be considered ‘inadequate’, or they fail to improve within the allotted year and the CQC commences action to shut them down.

The Priory Avenue Surgery is the first practice to leave the special measures programme, after inspectors re-rated the practice as ‘requires improvement’ in a follow-up inspection in July. It was rated ‘inadequate’ and put into special measures last November.

‘It’s the first practice that has been re-inspected for special measures, which we’re really pleased about because it’s one that’s improved,’ said Professor Field. ‘Special measures is all about encouraging continuous improvements, and that is what they’ve done.’

Map: CQC GP ratings by CCG

Priory Avenue Surgery was struggling with ‘very poor leadership’ and a series of other problems. After it was put into special measures, it received support from NHS England, RCGP and its local CCG to help turn care around.

This culminated in the Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust stepping in to take over the practice, which heralded a ‘real kick-start’ in the quality of care provided by the practice, according to Professor Field.

‘But it’s still a journey and they are now ‘requires improvement’, and we review all of the ‘requires improvement’ practices. We will go back in the summer of next year and we hope by then it will have achieved good in its ratings.’

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