Failing GP practices face Ofsted-style 'special measures' under CQC plans

GP practices could be placed under special measures if they receive a poor rating under the CQC's overhauled inspection regime, but GP leaders say the move could 'damage' trust in practices.

Professor Field: set to reveal plans for GP special measures invervention (Photo: JH Lancy)
Professor Field: set to reveal plans for GP special measures invervention (Photo: JH Lancy)

Professor Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of primary care, said the regulator would finalise what special measures would mean for practices over the summer.

When special measures status is applied to schools by Ofsted, management is overhauled, with governors and senior teaching staff often dismissed and replaced. Inspectors then visit the school every term and if improvement targets are not met the school is forced to close.

Hospitals under special measures can be subject to one of five action plans, including being partnered to a nearby ‘high-performing’ hospital, receiving extra monitoring with strict targets or having an improvement director appointed.

Isolated examples highlighted

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that placing practices in special measures could ‘wrongly damage’ patient trust in wider GP services by unfairly highlighting ‘isolated examples’ of poor practice.

He said: ‘The overwhelming majority of the 8,000 GP practices across England provide an excellent service to the nearly 1m patients who walk through surgery doors on a daily basis.  

‘We must understand and address the reasons why a few practices might be in difficulty, with the focus being on providing support and enabling improvement to deliver safe and quality care to patients.

‘However, it is important not to create a counterproductive blame culture based on isolated examples that would wrongly damage patient trust in wider GP services.’

Ofsted-style system

The revamped CQC inspection system, to be rolled out nationally this October, will see practices assigned ratings such as ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, in what has been seen as a significant shift towards an Ofsted-style system.

GPs have previously lashed out against ‘simplistic’ ratings, claiming the move would be ‘divisive and have damaging consequences for general practice’.

Professor Field said: ‘We have started work on a system for what we should do to tackle inadequate GP services. This work draws on the experience from our new-style GP inspections and the data we collect and analyse about services.

‘GPs and the bodies that represent them such as the BMA, GMC and RCGP, NHS England and people who use GP services will all be involved in this work.

‘We will make an announcement about what GP special measures could look like later in the summer.’

Health secretary announces plans

The DH has denied media reports that Jeremy Hunt will announce the plans for GP special measures on Wednesday, following what he considered the ‘success’ of the system in hospitals.

But speaking at parliament on Tuesday, Mr Hunt told the Commons that the CQC was looking to implement a special measures regime similar to the one in hospitals.

He said: 'What the new chief inspector of hospitals has done is not just identify the failing hospitals that have been put into special measures, but also the good and outstanding hospitals so that they know what they should and can aspire to.

‘I think we will hear shortly how the chief inspector of general practice intends to implement the same regime for general practice.'

Poll: Should failing GP practices face 'Ofsted-style' special measures?

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