Exclusive: CQC to reduce inspections on GP practices rated outstanding

The CQC is developing a 'more mature' regulatory process that will see 'outstanding' practices visited less frequently than those given lower ratings, chief inspector Professor Steve Field has told GPonline.

Professor Steve Field: 'We wouldn’t call it lighter touch; we’d say it’s a more mature system'
Professor Steve Field: 'We wouldn’t call it lighter touch; we’d say it’s a more mature system'

Professor Field said that the CQC did not want a one-size-fits-all system going forward where ‘we just inspect all practices every year’.

Instead, the watchdog is looking to develop a ‘more mature system’, which it would implement once every GP practice has been inspected and rated in the first round of the existing scheme by October 2016.

Changes to the scheme are likely to see practices with top ratings being visited less often by inspectors.

These practices would instead provide the CQC with information on their own performance in ‘a form of co-regulation’.

The CQC has said before that it intends to become ‘more data-driven’ as it hones the way it monitors practices.

Map: CQC GP ratings

Over the coming months, the CQC will conduct ‘a series of meetings with stakeholders’ to devise its future strategy and decide on how the system will look from then.

CQC reports released so far reveal that the vast majority of GP practices are providing high quality care, with 84% rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – far above the rating for all other healthcare settings.

The GPC told GPonline last month that the impressively high standard of GP care shows that the current intensive regime is not required to regulate the profession, and called for the CQC to scrap practice inspections altogether.

Reports have suggested that the CQC was considering adopting a ‘lighter touch’ regulation regime, and Professor Field has now confirmed to GPonline that the future scheme could head in this direction.

‘We wouldn’t call it lighter touch; we’d say it’s a more mature system,’ Professor Field said. ‘Our current thinking is that it’s likely we wouldn’t go back and inspect the "outstanding" practices as frequently as those that are "requires improvement".

‘But, in order to do that, we need to make sure that we have good data and that we’re thinking about ways practices can give us more information about how they're performing in a form of co-regulation, where there's more responsibility on the practice.’

He added that although some practices need to be re-inspected ‘every few months’, others might not require another inspection ‘for a number of years’.

'Outstanding' practices

But practices rated ‘outstanding’ in the first round would still be subject to some scrutiny, he warned, as even the very best could have a change in circumstances and develop problems.

‘Even "outstanding" organisations can go bad and not perform as well if problems occur with their finances, or unfortunately due to illness or if key staff leave. So we need to build a system which isn’t reliant on inspections every six months or a year, but is much more mature in how it takes it forward.

‘We've already talked at our advisory board with the college and the BMA, and we’re going to be doing lots of meetings through till just after Christmas where we’re going to decide how we’re going to take this forward.’

Photo: Solent News

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