GP practices to be licensed

All GP practices in England will require a 'license to operate' by April 2010, the DoH has said.

Dr Richard Vautrey

It confirmed that the new regulator, the Care Quality Commission, would be established by October 2008, and said that the new registration system would be 'fully operational from April 2010'.

A DoH spokesman said it was still developing the requirements for registration. This involves 'an analysis of the core standards from Standards for Better Health and National Minimum Standards for independent health and social care providers'.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said registration requirements were likely to be based on current core standards.

The Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection will merge to form the Care Quality Commission, which will ensure all GP practices in England are licensed to operate.

The 'core standards', from the government's Standards for Better Health paper published in 2004, and updated in 2006, are likely to be merged with the independent sector's equivalent, National Minimum Standards, and cover both sectors, Mrs Walker said.

This year, 6 per cent of NHS trusts did not meet the 'core standards', according to the Healthcare Commission's State of Healthcare report.

Any provider that did not comply when registration began would not be registered, said Mrs Walker.

Providers who fail to comply could face a £50,000 fine, according to the recent Health and Social Care Bill.

The independent sector has a licensing system, but despite 5 per cent of private organisations failing to comply with minimum standards, none have been stripped of their licence.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that he was not surprised by the plans because some LMCs had already been discussing how to make the current core standards more applicable to general practice with their PCTs.

'The key thing is that the licensing standards must be tailored to practices. Some of the standards are targeted towards larger health organisations and are not appropriate to small businesses and surgeries,' he said.

The DoH will be consulting on the registration requirements in 2008.

Licensing criteria

Under the Standard for Better Health, healthcare organisations must ensure:

  • Financial management achieves economy, effectiveness, efficiency, probity and accountability in the use of resources.
  • Patients are protected through systems that learn from all patient safety incidents.
  • Waste is properly managed to minimise the risks to staff.
  • Clinicians continuously update the skills and techniques relevant to their clinical work.

Source: DoH




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