But the regulator has come under fire after revealing that inspectors will access potentially un-anonymised patient records during visits to practices, without patient consent.
The CQC began visiting practices under its revamped inspection regime from 1 October. Practices can expect to be notified of their rating ahead of it being made publicly available, but only ‘a day or so’ in advance.
The CQC Provider Handbook for GPs, released this Thursday, tells practices ‘everything you need to know about the new GP regulations’, Professor Field said.
He said the information should allow practices to prepare how to deal with an impending inspection.
Following an inspection, the lead inspector will write up the report, which will be sent to the practice for accuracy and fact-checking before a rating is given. The inspector will then make a draft rating and send the report to be peer reviewed.
This will be checked by an inspection manager followed by a regional panel which will sign off the official practice rating. A random sample will undergo further checks. Professor Field said this system should take around six to eight weeks to be completed.
The CQC has vowed to inspect almost 800 practices and out-of-hours services by the end of 2014, a rate that would see the regulator fall well short of its target to inspect all 8,000 practices by April 2016.
But Professor Field said the CQC planned to ‘ramp up slowly’ the number of inspections it carrys out over the next year in order to meet the target, which will also see it gradually increasing the number of inspectors.
Viewing patient records
The CQC also faced criticism over plans revealed in the handbook to review patient records without consent as part of inspections, although GPs 'may' have the option to anonymise this 'if appropriate'.
But if the process of anonymisation was too lengthy, or if the inspector required specific records for the purposes of case tracking, 'anonymisation may not be possible', the regulator said in a separate document outlining how it will look at records.
The watchdog said it ‘recognised that there are particular sensitivities’ about using GP patient records. It will be the role of a GP or nurse from the inspection team to review the records, it said.
But leading GPs warned that the move undermined the trust patients put in their GPs.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chairman, said: ‘The confidentiality of private medical information is the basis of the trust that patients put in their family doctors and it is vital that this is not compromised.
‘If CQC inspectors want to have access to the private medical records of patients they need to put in place systems that obtain the explicit consent of patients. I believe patients will be extremely concerned to learn that inspectors of GP surgeries are looking at their private details without their consent.’