Flagship GP extended hours scheme placed in special measures by CQC

The South Tees Access Response (STAR) service, a scheme set up with GP Access Fund money as part of the government's high-profile drive to extend GP opening hours, has been rated inadequate by the CQC.

Opening hours: extended hours scheme rated by CQC (Photo: JH Lancy)
Opening hours: extended hours scheme rated by CQC (Photo: JH Lancy)

The service – which operates across sites in Middlesbrough, Redcar, North Ormesby and Brotton – was launched in April and provides access to GPs from 6pm-9:30pm Monday to Friday and 8am-9:30pm on weekends and Bank Holidays.

The scheme was launched in its current form using a share of funding awarded in the second wave of the GP Access Fund.

But after an unannounced CQC inspection in July, the service has been placed into special measures. The CQC said it chose to inspect the service after receiving reports of safety concerns, and plans to inspect it again within six months.

CQC rating

The service was rated ‘inadequate’ for safety, effectiveness and well-led, ‘requires improvement’ for responsiveness and ‘good’ for caring.

The CQC raised concerns that there was ‘no open and transparent approach to safety’, with no system in place for recording, reporting and learning from significant events.

It also said emergency equipment was not readily available at all sites the scheme operated across, records were not kept in line with its Controlled Drugs license and there was a lack of effective safeguarding procedures in place.

STAR said it had ‘immediately developed a thorough improvement plan’ in response to the CQC’s findings, assuring that all actions requiring immediate attention have already been addressed.

It added that its doctors have pledged their commitment to ‘continuing to improve’ following the CQC’s findings.

Quality of service

Teik Goh, chief executive of ELM Alliance, the local GP federation that runs the STAR service, said: ‘ELM Alliance is absolutely committed to ensuring our patients receive safe, high quality care and a good experience when using the STAR service.

‘The organisation accepts the findings of the report and has made immediate improvements and we are now working with both the CQC and our CCG to continue to develop the service.’

Alison Holbourn, deputy chief inspector of general practice for the north of England, said: ‘I was concerned to read that staff were not clear about reporting incidents, near misses and concerns. Additionally, investigations were not thoroughly carried out by the provider when there were unintended or unexpected safety incidents. Lessons learned were not demonstrated or communicated and so safety was not improved.

‘The ELM Alliance Limited Extended Hours and out-of-hours service will need to focus sharply on a number of issues and due to the concerns identified during the inspection CQC has placed this service into special measures. It will be inspected again within six months.

‘The service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action and if there is not enough improvement we will move to close the service.’

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