GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said GPs would be ‘staggered’ by the seven-fold fee increase, which could have repercussions on patient care ‘by further shrinking practice resources for frontline services’ at a time when they are already facing core budget cuts.
He added that forcing GPs to pay a hugely inflated fee for ‘an imposed system they do not have confidence in’ added insult to injury and could be the final straw for practices struggling financially.
Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the RCGP, also hit back against the fee hike, and said the DH must give assurances to practices that a GP funding boost it announced alongside the CQC proposals will cover the costs.
CQC fee increase
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘GPs will be staggered at the consultation proposals from the CQC for an unprecedented increase in practice fees at time when many are struggling financially.
‘These changes, if adopted, will see fees for GP practices increase seven-fold and will lead to practices collectively paying £40m a year for CQC's activity. It is an inexplicable move given the CQC is itself reviewing its inspection programme with a stated aim of introducing a scaled down process with fewer inspections.
‘The BMA had already called for end to the disproportionate, bureaucratic nature of CQC inspections, which currently has a focus on pointless box ticking that takes GPs and staff away from caring for patients.
‘While we understand and recognise that the government has indicated resourcing GP practices for this expense, this provides no assurance that the costs will be fully met, nor that it will be recurrently available.
‘The BMA’s GP committee has been consistently raising concerns about this process in our discussions with the CQC and during the consultation we will robustly challenge these wholly unjustified and damaging proposals.’
Dr Baker said: ‘The last thing that GPs and our practice staff need is further charges whilst we are under intense resource pressure.
‘We are pleased that the DH has stepped in to address this situation, so that practices will not suffer financially as a result of these changes – but practices need assurances that these will cover all costs.
‘The college has been expressing concerns for a long time about the burden of CQC inspections on practices. What we really need is for the GP inspection regime to be halted and a less resource-heavy and bureaucratic process be put in place, so that GPs are not taken away from frontline patient care whilst inspections are underway.’
Launching a CQC consultation on changes to its fees, the watchdog's chief executive David Behan said: ‘We are required to move to full cost recovery and are consulting on how we do this. We recognise the financial pressures faced by many providers, and do not underestimate the impact of any changes to their fees.'
Photo: Pete Hill