DH consultation to pave way for seven-fold CQC fee increase

Ministers have launched a consultation on broadening CQC powers to charge providers for inspections, opening the door to a potential seven-fold increase in GP fees proposed earlier this year.

CQC inspection: changes to fee powers to cover extended role of watchdog
CQC inspection: changes to fee powers to cover extended role of watchdog

Under current regulations, the CQC's fee-setting powers are limited to work involved in registration and inspection against registration. The DH consultation argues that the watchdog's 'new comprehensive inspections' and ratings are not fully covered by its fee-setting powers.

'This consultation seeks views on the proposal that the DH intends to bring performance assessments, and the comprehensive inspections that are carried out within the scope of the CQC's fee raising powers,' the consultation document says.

The move would 'enable the CQC to move towards a full-cost recovery system for all aspects of its inspections', it says.

A separate consultation begun last month by the watchdog proposed that as part of a move to full cost recovery, CQC fees for a GP practice with 5,000-10,000 registered patients that operates at one location would rise from £725 to £4,839. The CQC plans to implement the fee hike over two years - by 2017/18 - or over four years.

GP CQC fees

The DH has pledged £15m for GPs in 2016/17 - around £2,000 per average practice - to mitigate the rising costs practices will face, although officials have not confirmed whether further funding will be made available in subsequent years.

The CQC is currently funded through grant-in-aid from the DH in addition to provider fees, but government policy dictates that fee-setting regulators must recuperate their costs fully through fees income. Fee income for providers this year will account for under 51% of the £224m a year the CQC spends on its registration functions.

The CQC consultation on increasing its GP fees to seven times their current level closes on 15 January. After the consultation closes, the watchdog's board will make recommendations to ministers about changes to fees that would take effect from April 2016.

GP leaders said last month that the proposed increases were 'wholly unjustified', and called for the CQC's inspection regime to be dismantled. The BMA last week called on chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field to resign over comments suggesting general practice had failed as a profession because of poor standards of care at a small proportion of providers.

Click here to respond to the CQC consultation, and click here to respond to the DH consultation, which runs from 21 December to 1 February.

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