GP practices face CQC inspection via video call as regulator overhauls checks

The CQC will increase its use of video calls to interview practice staff during inspections under a revamped approach to regulation that will also reduce checks on surgeries rated 'good' or 'outstanding'.

In May, the CQC published a strategy for improving the quality of patient care, including less emphasis on ‘a set schedule of inspections’ and favouring a ‘more flexible, targeted approach’.

The watchdog also vowed to improve its data collection process and said it was looking to reduce duplication and workload for services.

In the latest update on the CQC’s regulatory approach to general practice, primary care chief inspector Dr Rosie Benneyworth said it would spend less time in surgeries and conduct more of its work remotely.

General practice regulation

Dr Benneyworth assured GPs that the CQC was continuing to work on making life easier for GPs working through the pandemic - insisting it was working with system partners to make them aware of current pressures.

In July, the CQC introduced a monthly review of information it holds about practices. It will not re-assess the rating or quality of care if it has found ‘no cause for concern’ - reducing the need for physical inspections.

The regulator has said it will re-inspect locations where there is a breach of regulations or where a service has previously been rated as ‘requires improvement’.

Dr Benneyworth said: ‘When we do inspect, we’ll spend less time on site and will work with GP practices to gather evidence in different ways such as interviewing practice staff using online video calls and with GP specialist advisors accessing clinical records systems digitally, meaning they won’t need to be on site.

Off-site inspections

‘Going forward we will increasingly make better use of technology to support how we gather evidence about a service and update a rating without the need for a visit. This regulatory approach will allow us to focus on those practices that need more support.’

Dr Benneyworth said the CQC’s new strategy would mean practices rated good or outstanding would have less frequent inspections and would help the regulator become ‘more dynamic, proportionate and flexible’.

She also confirmed that the CQC would continue to rate practices as either outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate; something she explained would help practices identify where improvements need to be made.

In its regulatory proposals, the CQC said it was planning to introduce a simplified ratings system for GP practices during 2021, arguing that the current method is ‘too complex’.

The CQC added the regulator would continue to adapt its work around the pressures facing general practice. She said: ‘We recognise that we need to be responsive to the current situation, and through engagement with providers, professionals and stakeholders we have adapted our approach to take into account the challenges that general practice is facing.’

A recent paper published by the Academy of Medical Sciences suggested that CQC inspections and non-emergency GP work should halted to help practices cope with a likely surge in respiratory illness alongside dual COVID-19 and flu jab campaigns.

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