Struggling GP practices should be offered support earlier, warns college CQC team

GP practices under CQC special measures need more intensive support earlier, according to one of the leaders of the RCGP support programme.

Dr Helen Crawley, evaluation lead of the peer support pilot set up to help practices put into special measures by the CQC, said most of the practices being supported by the programme would have benefited from earlier, high-level intervention by the NHS.

Dr Crawley, who is presenting a summary of findings so far from evaluation of the programme at the RCGP annual conference, said the college was unable to provide the level of support needed within the pilot’s budget.

Practices pay £5,000 for extra support

Under the pilot, practices identified as inadequate and placed in special measures by the CQC up to the end of December this year can ask for college support. Practices have to pay £5,000 which is then matched by NHS England.

The RCGP’s team of GPs, practice managers, pharmacists and nurses are sent in to support a practice to turn itself around. This can range from taking over management of the practice to help with recruitment, and drawing up the plans and reports required by the CQC under its special measures regime.

The college has provided support to about a third of those in special measures so far. Early results of the evaluation suggest ‘the majority would have benefited from intensive, high-level support as soon as possible’, said Dr Crawley.

What is needed, she said, is an early intervention ‘support hit team’ of high-level advisers to go in and stabilise practices.

One problem these practices face, said Dr Crawley, is that reputational damage can mean they are unable to attract managers or clinical leadership with the abilities to provide the level of support they need. ‘Supporting practices at the earliest possible stage would be far better for practices and the health economy,’ she said.

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