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BMA and College demand halt in CQC inspections

GPs say inspections burden ‘crisis-hit surgeries’ without telling public about quality of care

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

GP leaders at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) have demanded that the Care Quality Commission suspend its current inspection regime, having overwhelmingly passed a motion asserting that the inspector is unfit for purpose, damages the profession’s morale and has failed to deliver on the tasks it was set. At the same time the Royal College of GPs has agreed its own emergency motion calling on Jeremy Hunt to suspend CQC inspections because of the extra pressure they place on practices already “on the brink of meltdown”. But the CQC has insisted that inspections are essential to tackle the “seriously deficient primary care” that they uncover in a minority of practices, and denied that they should be a burden for any well-managed practice.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker wrote an open letter to the health secretary yesterday warning him that the burdens being placed on GPs by the CQC inspection regime, and pressures to provide 7-day access for routine care, are undermining efforts to turn around the crisis in general practice. She said that Council had passed an emergency motion at the weekend demanding that Mr Hunt immediately pause routine CQC inspections because time spent preparing for them, and dealing with other ‘red tape’ imposed by the Government, was taking GPs in ‘crisis-hit surgeries’ away from delivering safe patient care and preventing them from cutting waiting times for appointments.

Dr Baker wrote: “In the view of RCGP Council, the current inspection process tends to focus on those things that can be most easily documented and generates considerable additional clinical and administrative activity for practices. We believe that the time has come to conduct an urgent review of the CQC’s regulatory regime, to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and to ensure that it reflects the distinctive nature of general practice and focuses on what matters most to patients. Whilst this takes place, we call for the CQC’s programme of routine inspections to be halted on a temporary basis, as a means of alleviating the pressures on general practice which have now reached such an extent that they are giving rise to serious patient safety concerns.” And she urged the Government “to give assurances to concerned GPs across the country that plans to move to 7-day working will not be forced through whilst our concerns remain unresolved”.

The BMA also called on the CQC yesterday to suspend its current inspection regime. It said it had being raising concerns for some time that the CQC’s “overly bureaucratic and often nit-picking assessments” wasted valuable time that would be better spent treating patients, and produced “simplistic, crude” reports that didn’t tell the public much about a practice’s quality of care. Dr Chaand Nagpaul (pictured), GP committee chair, told ARM delegates: “Even though the vast majority of practices are ultimately rated as good or outstanding, it is clear that the CQC has lost the confidence of the profession and needs urgently to address the fundamental problems with its inspection regime.”

He went on: “GPs and their patients have waited far too long for an evidence based, proportionate, inspection process that facilitates trust amongst the profession, and one that the public can have confidence in.”

But Professor Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, said: “When over 1 in 7 general practices are not delivering the care that patients have every right to expect, now is not the time for us to put a halt on our inspections.

“In the last few weeks alone, we have found some seriously deficient primary care, which has led to us cancelling the registrations of some practices, in the interests of protecting the safety and quality of care for people who use these services.

“As a practising GP, I have never intended for our inspections to be experienced as a burden to those in the profession – and for a well-managed practice, the information we ask them to provide should not present itself as one.”

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