Message that most GP practices are good or outstanding is being lost, warns RCGP

Although more than eight out of 10 GP practices are rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by the CQC, this message is being lost as examples of poor care - often triggered by factors outside GPs' control - are highlighted, the RCGP has warned.

Dr Tim Ballard: message that practices are good is being lost
Dr Tim Ballard: message that practices are good is being lost

The college warned that many practices are struggling to meet standards of care because of workforce and funding issues that are driving a growing crisis in the profession.

RCGP vice chair Dr Tim Ballard said that some practices were 'pilloried' unfairly for below-par performance on a single 'area of developmental need'. Practices rated 'inadequate' in any individual quality standard by the CQC cannot normally receive an overall rating above 'requires improvement'.

GPonline reported last week that early findings suggest that most GP practices rated 'inadequate' by the CQC improve within six months.

Map: GP CQC ratings

Dr Ballard's comments came as CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field told the Daily Mail that general practice had 'failed as a profession' because of the low standards uncovered in some practices. The chief inspector's claim echoed comments earlier this year, when Professor Field told the RCGP conference that the need for the CQC reflected the failure of general practice.

Dr Ballard said: 'Family doctors are not against regulation, but the current regime of GP practice inspections is overly bureaucratic and the preparation involved is taking doctors and our teams away from where we are needed most – delivering care to our patients.

'Regulation needs to improve our patients’ safety – the current approach is loading additional burdens on GPs and our teams when they are already dealing with unprecedented resource and workforce pressures. We are concerned that this might inadvertently impair the delivery of the excellent patient care that we aspire to deliver.

'The message that is getting lost is that the vast majority of practices that have already been inspected – and been given a rating - have been found to be good or outstanding.'

Dr Ballard added that 'some practices are struggling to meet quality standards due to factors beyond their control, such as a lack of funding, significant increases in patient consultations and difficulties in trying to recruit sufficient GPs'.

CQC inspection

But speaking at the RCGP conference in October, Professor Field hit back at criticism of the CQC inspection regime, and said it was 'easy' for the profession to be angry with him.

'As a profession, it’s very easy to be angry with me,' he said. 'If I wanted to be popular, it’s very easy as chair of council because you can say things like "we need more money" or "CQC is a burden". It’s easy to be popular.

‘It’s very, very difficult to have the moral courage to do something for the people of England and patients to try and improve their care. And [the RCGP] should be shouting louder about leadership and quality – and not tolerating the poor practice that some our patients in this country unfortunately have to deal with.

‘We need to collectively stand up and say enough is enough. And I'm quite happy taking the brickbats and the issues on money, but frankly we collectively as a profession have failed.’

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