Three in four (72%) of almost 600 GPs polled said they had made changes to their policy or practice in order to meet the CQC's requirements, but over two thirds (69%) of those who made changes do not believe they made care safer.
GPs said many of the changes were 'bureaucratic' and 'costly'. One GP respondent called out some CQC requirements as 'simply ridiculous', while another said they were 'not convinced' that the changes they had made 'really affect clinical care’.
Many said they had to spend precious practice time writing out policies, protocols and risk assessments they 'already adhere to' in order to provide physical evidence for CQC inspectors – branded a 'useless paperwork exercise' that did 'not affect care' by one GP. Another said time spent with patients had 'decreased as a result'.
Responses reveal that many more GPs across the country now have new disposable curtains, laminated signs and pedal bins in their surgery in efforts to meet CQC expectations.
Guidance from the watchdog states that practices should either dispose of curtains or wash them at 60 degrees every six months – or immediately if soiled – and other objects and surfaces should be kept 'visibly clean'.
One GP said all clinical staff had to spend two hours learning 'glorified hand washing' aseptic non-touch technique (ANTT) to help provide evidence to the CQC their practice was meeting infection control requirements.
Another respondent said: ‘Curtains have had to be changed and cupboards cleared. Notices have been put up everywhere offering chaperones. We've had mandatory training on fire drills, information governance, etc. Patient care is no different.'
But only one in eight (12%) GPs said their practice had not made any changes at all to fit the CQC’s requirements, suggesting that the profession is taking the watchdog’s demands seriously despite their doubts over their necessity.
And a third (31%) of those GPs who did make changes said they had positively impacted patient care.
One of these GPs said: 'We did not have a lockable cupboard in every consulting room before, so some drugs – for example for joint injections – were accessible to patients prepared to open closed cupboard doors. This was a tiny risk that no longer exists.'
Another revealed they had stopped leaving prescription pads in their car and no longer carried drugs such as morphine in their bags, which could benefit patient safety.
The CQC said it was pleased that GPs were using their CQC inspections to determine how they could make improvements to care.
'We know that inspection improves care for patients,' a spokeswoman told GPonline. '93% of practices that we have re-inspected since last October, when we started the new approach, have improved in at least one of the key questions that they were rated against.
'Also, many practices have come out of special measures and continue to do so because of these improvements. This is positive news for GPs and for patients.
'We encourage all practices to review the findings and recommendations from their inspections to make sure they are providing the best care they possibly can.
'If they feel any changes they are choosing to make are simply bureaucratic and of no benefit to patient safety, we urge them to consider what more they could do in the best interests of their patients.'