Inadequate practices face 'automatic' CQC special measures

Practices rated inadequate by the CQC will be placed immediately in special measures, the watchdog has revealed in updated proposals.

Professor Steve Field: rating system change (Photo: JH Lancy)
Professor Steve Field: rating system change (Photo: JH Lancy)

The CQC previously said that any ‘inadequate’ practices would receive a six-month grace period to turn care around before being subject to the Ofsted-style special measures.

But under CQC proposals released on Thursday any practice receiving the lowest rating will ‘automatically' be placed into special measures.

Affected practices will then have a year to improve services or the CQC ‘will cancel its registration’ and NHS England will source alternative services for its list of registered patients.

Six-month timescale

Within six months they will receive another comprehensive inspection. If overall care remains inadequate, the CQC will begin proceedings to cancel the practice’s registration. Then, after a further six months, they will be subject to a final inspection, which could lead to them losing the registration if care remains unsatisfactory.

The change in plans will ensure that any practices providing dangerous care will not be allowed to continue to do so and that struggling practices will receive support to ‘improve at the earliest opportunity’, the watchdog said.

A spokesman said: ‘The special measures regime will work alongside CQC’s existing powers.  If CQC has serious concerns about a GP practice then it will take immediate action so that people get safe, high-quality and compassionate primary care.’

Alternative method

Practices will also face a second possible route to special measures. Any practices that is given at least one inadequate rating for a ‘key question’ or ‘population group’ will be given six months to make necessary improvements. If it fails to do so, it will also be subject to special measures.

Around 20% of practices were earmarked by the CQC as being ‘high risk’ ahead of inspections. But early rounds of inspection ratings have revealed that a significant number of these are actually providing ‘good’, safe care.

As of yet, no practices have received an inadequate rating, with the majority being classed as 'good'. CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field previously suggested that up to 200 practices could face closure after inspection.

Professor Field said: ‘We will only cancel the registration of a GP practice if we think it is absolutely necessary – and in any case our priority will be to help the practice improve, if that is appropriate. In these situations we will work closely with NHS England who will ensure that people registered at that practice continue to have access to safe and high quality general practice.’

The CQC is seeking feedback on these plans before finalising the approach for April 2015.

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