Exclusive: CQC rates practice outstanding two months after publicly calling it high risk

A practice rated 'outstanding' by the CQC was publicly labelled 'high risk' in November when the watchdog published its controversial 'intelligent monitoring' data, GPonline can reveal.

Inspection: CQC risk scores inaccurate
Inspection: CQC risk scores inaccurate

The CQC publicly identified St Thomas Medical Group, in Exeter, as among the highest risk practices in England on its intelligent monitoring website last year. But after visiting the practice, inspectors rated it among the country's very best.

So far, only six GP practices have achieved an outstanding rating, including former GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden’s practice in Derbyshire.

The disparity between actual ratings and risk ratings has prompted renewed calls from GP leaders for the CQC to scrap its 'stupid' intelligent monitoring system. The GPC claims the tool is ‘misleading patients and damaging the CQC’s reputation’.

GP has previously shown that a proportion of ‘good’ practices were also wrongly called out as ‘high risk’ ahead of their inspections.

Inadequate practices not flagged up

In addition, two of the five practices given the lowest rating of ‘inadequate’ were placed in the lowest risk category - band 6 - by the CQC's intelligent monitoring tool.

Neither of the two are subject to special measures, as they were rated before the CQC changed its rules so that 'inadequate' practices automatically were placed in special measures. The two practices have also begun to show signs of improvement, a CQC spokeswoman said.

Only one of the practices rated inadequate so far was placed in a high-risk band by the intelligent monitoring tool.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This shows how useless the intelligent monitoring system is as a marker for quality of practice, and it’s no wonder that the profession has no confidence in that process.

‘The problem is it continues to be visible to patients and give them the wrong information. It should be removed, and the CQC should rely on proper visits for assessments, not using the data in this way.’

One senior primary care lawyer has said practices could take legal action for defamation against the CQC if they are unfairly labelled high risk.

The CQC has said its intelligent monitoring risk scores ‘are not judgments’ on practices and should not be interpreted as such. The watchdog says only inspection ratings reflect its view of whether the service provided by a practice is ‘safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led’.

Poll: should the CQC scrap its intelligent monitoring tool?

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