GPs demand cash injection to cover seven-fold CQC fee hike in full

GP leaders have warned that increased costs for GP practices as CQC fees rise to seven times their current level by 2017/18 must be met in full by the government.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: Alex Deverill)
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: Alex Deverill)

DH officials have announced that GP funding will increase by £15m in 2016/17 – as part of an overall £220m GP contract deal – to cover practice costs as CQC fees triple from this month.

The government has now confirmed that this extra funding will be ‘recurrent in future years’.

The £15m uplift amounts to roughly £2,000 per practice, and is expected to mitigate the bulk of the 3.5-fold increase in CQC fees for GPs in 2016/17.

But with fees set to hit seven times their current rate in 2017/18 – equivalent to over £4,000 more than the current annual rate of £725 for the average practice – further funding will be needed to avoid practices facing a loss.

Practices that currently pay more than £725 a year in fees – including those with more than 10,000 registered patients or with several premises over multiple locations – will face even greater losses than average-sized practices.

Map: CQC GP ratings

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said there would be ‘a requirement’ for the ‘unacceptable’ 2017/18 increase to be fully funded as well.

The DH has not confirmed whether more funding will be made available to cover the full cost increase in future years.

A spokeswoman told GPonline that any plans for additional funding would be ‘assessed at a later date’.

The CQC announced the decision to increase its charges because, as a fee-setting regulator, government policy dictates it must recoup costs fully through fees income. The watchdog currently relies on grant-in-aid from the DH in addition to fees.

Dr Vautrey warned that the full 2017/18 rise must be covered, as many practices are already struggling under acute financial pressure.

Earlier this year, GPonline revealed exclusively that 20% of practices in parts of England had been officially declared 'vulnerable' by NHS England. Meanwhile, a BMA poll found one in 10 practices in England were financially unsustainable.

GP funding

Dr Vautrey said: ‘Just as we secured £15m for the increase this year as part of the £220m expenses deal we got for practices, we’ll be working hard to get the full CQC rise paid next year as well.

‘I think that’s an expectation of practices and it’s something that we will be seeking to negotiate for next year.

‘But, simply covering the funding through additional expenses fails to recognise the root cause of the problem, which is the bureaucracy of the CQC.

‘We have to continue to put pressure on both the government and the CQC themselves to really radically look at what CQC are doing and question whether it is cost-effective to spend £40m on regulating general practice when it’s self-evident that the vast majority of practices are performing to a "good" or "outstanding" level.’

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