Most practices face simpler CQC checks from April 2018

The vast majority of GP practices will undergo simpler - and less frequent - 'focused inspections' from next year instead of the comprehensive checks carried out to date, the CQC has confirmed.

CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field
CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field

From April next year, the CQC says 'most' inspections of practices already rated good or outstanding will focus on specific areas of potential concern rather than assessing the practice as a whole. The revamped system could be less demanding for practices, the watchdog says.

Other changes to the GP inspection regime will be phased in over the next 18 months, the CQC has said, after publishing results of a consultation on overhauling GP inspections.

The watchdog said the focus of inspections will be based on data it has gathered on the practice and on findings from previous inspections, although all checks will consider performance on the 'well-led' key question.

By focusing only on practices’ weak spots, the new system will help maximise the opportunity to improve their ratings, the CQC said.

Over 380 responses were received to the consultation, which was launched in June. Among these, 176 were healthcare providers or professionals.

GP inspection changes

From next month – November 2017 – the CQC will officially extend the interval period between inspections up to five years for practices rated good or outstanding, although a proportion will still be inspected each year.

It will also implement a new assessment framework defining what it expects practices to achieve for each of its five key lines of enquiry, which ask whether they are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

Inspection reports will be improved at this time so that they are ‘significantly shorter and easier to read’.

From April 2018, it will ‘refine its approach’ for inspecting and rating population groups – in addition to ushering in focused inspections as the new norm.

Throughout the rest of 2018, it will also debut its system of collecting information from providers. Practices will be asked to share information on any changes once a year with the CQC as part of a more collaborative approach to inspections.

Inspections will be conducted on a risk-based schedule should concerns be raised by the data it receives on practices.


In a bulletin sent to GPs last week, chief inspector Professor Steve Field said: ‘We can only plan this more targeted approach to inspection if we hold accurate, up-to-date information about practices.

‘We will get this through our Insight model, local intelligence from closer working with CCGs, and through a new system of provider information collections we intend to introduce in 2018.

‘While I hope you will welcome this more proportionate approach to regulation – I also want to assure you that we are continuing to work with practices and their representative bodies to improve and refine how that process will work.

‘It is our belief that the changes that we plan to make over the next 18 months will bring real benefits to providers and patients.

'Minimising the impact of regulation on providers is at the forefront of our mind as we bring in these changes in phases, taking care to test and refine our processes as we go, and working continually with you, and your representatives. You will find a timetable for our implementation plans below.’

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