Five GP practices a week inspected by CQC during pandemic second wave

The CQC has inspected five GP practices a week in England since the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic began - despite GPs calling for non-essential checks to stop, GPonline can reveal.

(Photo: Nora Carol Photography)
(Photo: Nora Carol Photography)

CQC officials carried out 56 on-site inspections in the 12-week period from the start of September to 24 November, the watchdog has confirmed.

This is more than three times as many as took place from the start of the first UK lockdown on 16 March to the end of August - with just 17 on-site inspections over that period of almost six months.

GPonline also revealed last week that GP practices could face CQC inspections at designated sites delivering COVID-19 vaccinations.

CQC inspection

GP leaders have repeatedly called for a reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy as practices face unprecedented workload through the second wave of the pansdemic.

The 73 on-site inspections since the pandemic began represent a huge reduction compared with the same period last year, when 1,117 inspections were conducted.

But the BMA has continued to warn that inspections should be paused to ensure practices are not overwhelmed during the second wave - with analysis by LMCs showing that the pandemic has added 50 hours a week to overall GP workload per average practice.

The CQC suspended routine inspections in March following the start of the pandemic, continuing to look at only ‘a very small number of cases’. In June it announced plans to re-start inspections - including on lower-risk cases - from autumn, in a move condemned as 'inappropriate' by GPs.

COVID-19 impact

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said last week that the CQC should stop all non-essential inspections, warning GP practices would need 'all hands to the pump' to cope with a COVID-19 vaccination programme on top of existing heavy workload.

He pointed out: ‘At the outset of the pandemic in March, 94% of general practices were judged by the CQC as being good or outstanding. We have shown that we can be trusted to deliver for our patients when they need us most. It now makes sense to remove all unnecessary regulatory attention.'

Chief inspector of primary care at the CQC Rosie Benneyworth told GPonline that patient safety had to ‘remain a priority’ for the healthcare system as it contended with the impact of coronavirus.

She said: ‘We know that GPs and practice teams are under immense pressure, that is why we have suspended routine, frequency-based inspections. It is also why we have worked with the sector to respond and adapt – finding ways to support providers while balancing our duty to provide public reassurance.

‘The transitional regulatory approach has been developed to be flexible, builds on what we learned during the first wave of the pandemic, and importantly means that any inspection activity is more targeted and focused on where we have identified or people have shared concerns.’

She added: ‘We remain sensitive to the changing circumstances of providers, while making sure our regulatory role and core purpose to keep people safe are at the heart of every decision we make.’

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