The RCGP has urged health secretary Jeremy Hunt to order an ‘emergency pause’ in routine inspections of GP practices by the CQC, after its governing council voted in favour of the emergency motion.
An immediate, temporary halt must be implemented to prevent general practice from ‘going into meltdown in the next six months’, the RCGP warned, as GPs are left struggling to cope with soaring patient demand and a dwindling workforce.
The GPC voiced a simultaneous call for the CQC to ‘suspend its current inspection regime’, after a motion at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) that branded the watchdog ‘unfit for purpose’ and a ‘demonstrable failure’ was overwhelmingly passed on Tuesday.
The RCGP warned that CQC inspections are piling extra pressures onto GP practices. Its proposed ‘pause’ in inspections should allow practices time to better manage their workloads and would enable practices to turn around the crisis in general practice by relieving pressure, it said.
In an open letter addressed to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the time had come for ‘an urgent review of the CQC’s regulatory regime’.
‘Whilst this takes place,’ she added, ‘we call for the CQC’s programme of routine inspections to be halted on a temporary basis, as a means of alleviating the pressures on general practice which have now reached such an extent that they are giving rise to serious patient safety concerns.
‘This would not, of course, preclude the CQC from conducting inspections of practices where specific reasons existed for doing so, for instance were a practice to be subject to a significant level of complaints.’
CQC has 'fundamental problems'
Speaking after the ARM vote, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘clear that the CQC has lost the confidence of the profession’ and that it needs to ‘urgently address the fundamental problems within its inspections regime’.
He said: ‘The BMA’s GP committee has been voicing significant concerns about the CQC’s operation, particularly the overly bureaucratic and often nit-picking assessments that are wasting days of valuable GP and staff time that could be being spent on treating patients. The current regime is incurring huge costs of several hundred million pounds annually.
‘We will be writing to the government and CQC asking for an urgent meeting to cease the current inspection process, in the wake of the ARM’s decision which backs an earlier vote taken at the LMC Conference in May. GPs and their patients have waited far too long for an evidence-based, proportionate, inspection process that facilitates trust amongst the profession, and one that the public can have confidence in.’
RCGP research has shown that every GP could gain 120 additional hours per year if the government were to slash the administrative burden currently imposed on GPs by half, which would allow up to 12m more patients to secure a GP appointment within a week.
GPs conduct 370m patient consultations every day – 60m more than they were just five years ago, according to RCGP data. This spike in demand has coincided with general practice’s share of NHS funding falling to an all-time low of 8% in England.