GPs left 'in limbo' as CQC misses 50-day rating target for 39% of practices

Fewer than two in three practices received their CQC report within the target 50 days after their inspection, according to the latest official figures, with GP leaders warning the drawn-out process is leaving practice staff 'in limbo'.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey

The CQC managed to complete 61% of draft reports within 50 days of inspection according to figures from January, despite aiming to get 90% of GP reports done within this timeframe.

It comes as the watchdog has completed inspections at 7,705 GP locations - covering all practices that were initially registered when it launched the current scheme in October 2014. Not all of these practices have had their inspection reports published as yet.

GP leaders said the CQC should 'turn around reports as fast as possible'. Practice staff are ‘left in limbo’ while awaiting reports, which can add to their anxiety, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said.

The House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) told the watchdog over a year ago it must increase the timeliness with which it publishes inspection reports, warning there was ‘too often’ a long gap after inspection and an ‘alarming lack of attention to detail’ in reports.

The CQC said it had appointed an external consultancy in January to ‘re-examine the issue of report timeliness’. The initial work was completed last month in February.

Board papers from the watchdog said: ‘There are further conversations to take place with colleagues from the enabling functions before the final analysis is complete and recommendations and possible actions can be prioritised.’

Map: CQC GP ratings

Dr Vautrey said: ‘The CQC can do better. They have set a target they should aspire to. They need to be as responsive as possible and provide information to practices as quickly as possible so they are not left hanging on.

‘It leaves practice feeling unsure as to what the outcome actually was. Inspectors give some feedback following the end of the visiting process so you have some feeling of how things went, but until you have that report you are left in limbo – and that adds to the anxiety to practice staff.

‘They need to reduce that and turn it around as fast as possible.’

It could also become more difficult for practices to contest aspects of their rating if the gap between inspection and seeing the report is too long, he added.

‘The longer the process goes on the more difficult it is to be actually sure what happened on a particular day,’ he said. ‘But the key thing is most CQC reports are outlining good practice and that needs to be communicated to practices as quickly as possible.’

Ruth Rankine, deputy chief inspector of general practice, said: ‘We are committed to making sure that we publish our inspection reports as quickly and efficiently as possible without compromising their quality as we know that patients value having accurate and clear information about the quality of their services.

‘Overall, we have been making improvements to the timeliness of our report publications against the targets that we set ourselves but we recognise that more needs to be done. We will continue to work on this, improving our processes where necessary, and reporting publicly on our progress.

‘Our teams share their provisional findings immediately after the inspection so that concerns around patient safety can be addressed straightaway and there are no surprises for practice staff. Also, we share our draft reports with providers as part of our factual accuracy checks, at which point GPs and other staff have the chance to query any points of detail with us ahead of their publication.’

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