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CQC should ‘overhaul’ inspections rather than continue with ‘inappropriate’ restart, GP leaders say

by Eleanor Philpotts
19 June 2020

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The BMA’s GP Committee has said it is ‘completely inappropriate’ for the CQC to restart routine GP practice inspections at this point in time.

It suggested the CQC should instead take this opportunity to ‘overhaul’ the inspection model, with the RCGP making similar demands.

The RCGP said it was planning to publish proposals for an alternative model in the ‘coming weeks’.

Their comments come after the regulator announced yesterday that it would recommence routine inspections of lower-risk GP practices from this autumn, while higher-risk practice inspections are being scheduled for this summer.

The CQC paused routine inspections in March and has since been focusing on remote monitoring of risk; and the new emergency support framework, under which it has engaged with GP practices on the phone to sound them out on issues they may need support with during the pandemic.

But, commenting on the announcement, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said this was not the time to restart inspections but rather an opportune moment to ‘overhaul’ inspection processes.

He said: ‘GPC has long-called for an overhaul of inspection processes, and now is the precise time for that as we all reflect on learning from this crisis.

‘As practices gear up for the surge in demand caused by a huge backlog of non-Covid patients and care – which some practices are already experiencing – it is completely inappropriate to announce a general return to inspections right now.’

Dr Vautrey said this comes as the ‘over the last few months’ GP practices ‘have risen to the challenge of completely reorganising the way they work so that they can safely and confidently continue to provide care to their patients during the Covid pandemic’.

‘They have done this without many of the regulatory burdens forced upon them previously – allowing them the space to innovate and dedicate more time to patients,’ he added.

It comes as last week, Dr Vautrey had urged the Government to ‘reflect very carefully’ before reintroducing bureaucracy to general practice that has been paused during the pandemic.

Also commenting on the news that inspections will restart, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘We recognise that there is a place for regulation, particularly to identify practices that are struggling and need support to deliver safe patient care.

‘But with more than 95% of practices rated good or outstanding, the College would advocate a shift away from a pre-pandemic inspection process that many GPs found arduous, stressful and diverted attention away from patient care.’

Instead, Professor Marshall said, GPs should be trusted to run their services without ‘tick boxes’.

He said: ‘We would like to see policy makers trust GPs and our teams to do our best for patients – and give us the time to do so – by replacing a focus on tick box accountability with one of trust and proportionality.

He added that the RCGP ‘will be publishing recommendations around how the regulatory burden on GPs can be reduced while maintaining patient safety in coming weeks’.

Professor Marshall had previously welcomed the ‘dramatic reduction in administrative tasks’ during the pandemic, not seen by GPs for a decade. Arguing that GP regulation has ‘become disproportionate’, Professor Marshall has said bureaucracy must not return to pre-pandemic levels.