The top-scoring 200 practices rated by the CQC cater for twice as many patients as the 200 lowest-rated, the CQC's chief inspector for primary care confirmed this week.
Around 6,000 practices have been judged by the CQC since it launched its four-point Ofsted-style rating system over two years ago.
Including re-ratings from follow-up inspections, the overwhelming majority of GP practices currently hold a good or outstanding rating - 87% in total - including over 200 rated outstanding.
Commenting on the results so far, the watchdog's chief inspector Professor Steve Field said ‘over 1m patients’ in England are receiving care from practices with the highest possible CQC rating.
He went on to add that a similar number – ‘over 200’ – practices have been rated inadequate by inspectors.
As a result, ‘over half a million patients’ are not receiving ‘the basic standards of care they should expect’, he said – just half the figure covered by a similar number of outstanding practices.
Official data published by the CQC confirm that the average list size of practices rated outstanding is 9,598, compared with an average list size of 4,755 for practices rated inadequate.
GPonline reported last month that the CQC’s annual analysis of ratings found a direct correlation between practice list size and CQC performance, suggesting it is more difficult for smaller practices to secure top ratings.
Practices working together in federations also tended to score higher than practices working in isolation, the report showed.
In the same month, Professor Field declared that the days of single-handed GPs working in isolation ‘are now over’.
The watchdog has committed to visiting and rating all remaining GP practices, less than a third of the total in England, before the end of March 2017, when it will revamp its inspection process again.
Professor Field said: ‘After reporting on more than 6,000 inspections we have found that most care is good – with just over 200 practices now rated outstanding.
‘That means that over 1m patients in England currently receive care from practices which we have rated outstanding. What’s enormously encouraging is that our inspections are driving improvement – 90% of practices that we have re-inspected have improved since last October.
‘However, we still see evidence of too much poor care. Since we began inspecting GP practices in October 2014 we have found over 200 practices to be inadequate. While this is a minority, this still amounts to over half a million patients in England who were not receiving the basic standards of care that they should be able to expect from their GP practice.
‘I am glad to say that we have increasingly found that most practices that are placed in special measures use the support that is on offer to meet those standards.’