GP registration will be 'major challenge' for CQC, MPs warn

CQC inspections lack consistency and implementing GP practice registration from April will be a 'major challenge' for the watchdog, MPs have warned.

CQC chair David Behan: changes already underway
CQC chair David Behan: changes already underway

A report published today by the House of Commons health select committee called on CQC chair David Behan to overhaul the organisation's governance structures ‘as a matter of urgency’.

MPs warned in the report that 'the role and duties of the CQC are not sufficiently clear' and called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to work with NHS regulators and commissioners to clarify its role, and 'reconsider whether prime responsibility for patient safety should reside with the CQC'.

All GP practices in England must be registered with the CQC by 1 April 2013. Once registered, practices will be routinely inspected by the CQC every two years.

'Given the magnitude’ of GP registration, MPs on the committee said they would carefully examine how successful the process had been at next year’s accountability hearing with the watchdog.

‘Registration should be a challenging process for providers and not simply a bureaucratic formality,’ the report said. But it said CQC inspections were ‘inconsistent’ and urged the watchdog to give inspectors a ‘consistent methodology’.

The report also recommended better use of clinical advisers, whose advice had not been called upon in 87% of CQC inspections. 

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said he would be concerned if CQC inspectors assessing general practice did not seek advice from a specialist GP clinical adviser.

‘How the CQC implements inspections is a huge concern. They need to understand general practice,’ he said.

MPs also warned that the general public had ‘little confidence’ in the CQC’s essential standards to ensure good quality care.

It added that the CQC must improve support for whistleblowers, and refuse registration for organisations in which staff felt unable to speak out.

Responding to the report, CQC chief executive David Behan said: ‘In our strategic review we consulted widely on a clear statement of our purpose and role.

'We also set out our intentions to improve how we communicate with the public, make better use of information, and work more effectively as an organisation and with others, including those who provide care.

‘We also set out our intentions to tailor the way we regulate different types of organisations based on what has the most impact on driving improvement. We will put people’s views at the centre of what we do.

‘We have already begun to make some of these changes and will continue this process.’

Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: ‘The CQC must use the recommendations made by the health select committee - together with what it hears through its consultation exercise and the recommendations due to be made by the Francis report shortly - to drive through the changes needed to give both the public and NHS leaders confidence in its work.’

A DH spokeswomen said: ‘Much of the report’s focus is on the inspection and registration process, and we look forward to the CQC's response under its new leadership.’

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