Professor Steve Field: The quality of GP services is good

It's more than a year since I became chief inspector of general practice.

As GP readers, you don't need me to tell you that it has been an eventful year. But I think we've made great progress in improving the way the CQC inspects GP practices.

There have been arguments and disagreements about the way forward, but throughout, I have been encouraged by the constructive way most GPs and your representatives have engaged with us to help us arrive at inspections that focus on what's important to patients - although I know that you won't all agree with me on that point.

My view all along has been that the overwhelming majority of GPs provide excellent services, and our early ratings bear this out.

But some practices are simply not providing the services their communities need. That's clearly not good for patients, but it should also trouble those GPs who are providing good services. The sector is often judged, particularly by the media, by the worst performers, not the best.

We have now put the first practices into special measures. This is important - it signals the first steps on the road to improvement. And that's the aim. I want practices to improve.

NHS England is working with the RCGP to offer support to help them improve. But if they don't, we can't allow a situation to continue where some patients miss out on effective general practice.

I set out our proposals for special measures last year. We have now updated these as a result of work with the sector and testing our approach in our first inspections since October 2014.

The purpose of special measures is to:

  • Ensure providers found to be providing inadequate care do not continue to do so.
  • Provide a framework within which we use our enforcement powers and work with, or signpost to, other organisations in the system to ensure improvements are made.
  • Provide a timeframe within which providers must improve the quality of their care, or we will seek to cancel their registration.

Practices rated inadequate will enter special measures and we will evaluate the effectiveness of this action, feeding the findings into the final policy. We will continue to test this until April 2015, when we formally implement special measures.

The introduction of ratings has confirmed to me that the overall quality of GP services is good. Let's work together to make it even better.

  • Professor Field is CQC chief inspector of general practice.

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