Early CQC inspections target 'high-risk' practices

'High-risk' practices will be prioritised for inspection by the CQC, as the regulator pledges to inspect the 10% of practices it considers 'most worrying' within the next three months.

CQC inspections: 300 practices a month face checks
CQC inspections: 300 practices a month face checks

The CQC is set to release ratings from over 300 practices over the next two weeks from the first wave of its revamped inspection scheme. Up to a thousand are scheduled for inspection before 2015.

The watchdog’s ‘intelligent monitoring’ system, details of which were released on Monday, has analysed data from all practices and ranks them on a six-point scale ahead of their CQC inspection.

Around 20% of practices have been allocated to band 1 or 2, meaning they will be considered ‘high-risk’ and will be prioritised for inspection.

The vast majority of practices (80%) fall into bands 3 to 6, indicating low concern, the watchdog said.

Risk ratings for practices

The bands are decided based on information obtained from a range of datasets including the QOF, GP patient survey and electronic prescribing analysis and costs.

The proportion of people able to access a GP when they want to, cervical screening tests from the last five years, care for people with bipolar disorder and provision of care plans form the major indicators out of 38 that contribute to a practice’s score.

Regional variation in the risk factor of practices is clearly apparent. While only 4% of practices in north-east England were placed in band 1, one in five (20%) practices in London were given the highest risk score.

Although practices in bands 1 and 2 will be prioritised, practices from other bands will also be inspected to help portray a more accurate overall picture of the quality of GP services.

Focus on worrying practices

Chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field told GP the tool ‘means we can focus on the most worrying and concerning practices.’

But the data ‘only tells you a certain amount’ and some practices may carry high risk simply because of the area and pressures they deal with. This is why inspections are needed to give accurate ratings, he said.

Two practices have already had their ratings published – both of which achieved a top score of ‘outstanding’. The CQC said over 300 more are scheduled to drop in coming weeks.

The two practices, both from a similar area in Greater Manchester, have ‘brilliant leadership and links to hospitals and other practices in the area’, said Professor Field.

The two different practices, one a social enterprise and the other a traditional general practice, were paragons of primary care, he said. He expected other practices in the area to achieve high scores.

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