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CQC fee hike plans will hobble frontline care, GP leaders warn

General practice annual share set to rise from £21m to £37.5m

Caroline White

Friday, 21 October 2016

The planned fee hikes for registration with the health services regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), will hobble frontline care in general practice in England, GP leaders have warned.

The proposed increases for 2017-18, which were announced yesterday, follow on from the plans the regulator set out last year to continue to fall in line with the Treasury’s requirement to recoup its chargeable costs in full from providers.

But with projected rises of up to 75% in some cases, GP leaders have described the plans as “scandalous,” pointing out that general practice would have to pay £37.5 million in annual fees instead of the current total levy of £21.3 million, which would inevitably affect frontline care.

Under the proposals, a practice with a list size of 5,000 patients would pay £3,845 – up from £2,187, but a list size of 15,000 would mean fees would nearly double from £3,365 to £5,918.

Multiple location providers would also face steep increases, according to the analysis drawn up by the BMA’s GP committee.

Those with two sites would pay £8,371, up from £4,761, while those with five sites would be expected to pay £16,736, up from £9,518. And those with 40 or more sites would hand over £104,614, up from £59,494.

“This is a scandalous proposed increase in fees that could see GP practices being charged an extortionate 76% rise in their CQC costs,” fumed Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, BMA GP committee CQC lead.

NHS England has promised to reimburse GP practices for the increases. But Dr Sanford-Wood insisted that this would still “divert overstretched NHS funds from other budgets from frontline patient services to maintain a system of regulation and inspection in which the majority of GPs have little confidence.”

A recent BMA survey found that nine out of 10 GPs felt the current inspection scheme was flawed and bureaucratic, with the vast majority reporting that it diverts GPs, nurses, and other staff away from treating patients.

“The CQC is planning to significantly reduce the scale of its GP inspections which should lower the cost of regulation. This makes the proposal to increase its fees inexplicable and wholly unjustified,” said Dr Sanford-Wood.

“These increases need to be halted so that precious NHS resources are spent on providing care to patients and not feeding the bureaucracy of the current regulation and inspection programme.”

In an accompanying statement, the CQC said its original plans always “signalled that most sectors would have to move towards full cost recovery over a two-year period.

“The fees paid by providers enable us to fulfil our purpose of making sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care. We will continue to look carefully at our costs, and to demonstrate that we are fair, efficient, effective and proportionate.”

These proposals are out for consultation until noon on Wednesday 11 January 2017. The new fees will apply from April 1 next year.

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