CQC to step up GP practice inspections from April

The CQC will step up inspections of GP practices from April, targeting practices rated 'inadequate', 'requires improvement' or 'good' with breaches of regulation - and some with no breaches.

In an update on 19 March the CQC said it would resume inspections of GP services rated as ‘inadequate’, ‘requires improvement’ and ‘good’ where breaches of regulation had been found.

Practices rated as ‘requires improvement’ where there are no breaches of regulation will also be targeted for inspection, along with GP services that are newly registered and have not been inspected during their first 12 months.

The regulator confirmed that inspections would be focused on its ‘three key questions’ to prove that practies are ‘safe, effective and well-led’.

CQC inspections suspended

The CQC suspended routine inspections last March following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and announced four months later that it would re-start inspections - including on lower-risk cases - from last autumn, in a move condemned as 'inappropriate' by GPs.

As of 12 March this year the CQC had carried out 132 on-site inspections since the start of the first UK lockdown on 16 March 2020 - representing a huge reduction compared with the same period last year, when 1,646 inspections were conducted.

Last week GPonline reported that dozens of GPs had signed a petition calling for an investigation into the CQC's approach to practice inspections. They argued that the regulator’s current methods have created a 'culture of fear’.

The letter also called for the complete suspension of CQC inspections of GP practices in all but exceptional circumstances for the duration of the pandemic - and questioned the timing of the decision to re-start checks last autumn.

BAME bias

The CQC announced last month that it is planning to investigate ‘longstanding concerns’ that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) GP partners may be more likely to score lower in practice ratings.

The RCGP has since called for an independent investigation into concerns over a bias against BAME GPs. The college's council called for a review covering all practices forced to close after poor ratings - and has urged the CQC to share details of 'any previous or ongoing and/or planned studies and data' on how ethnicity or country of qualification of GPs may affect ratings.

In February the CQC set out plans to move away from routine on-site inspections of GP practices as part of a consultation to improve how it assesses primary care services.

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