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CQC to persist with practice inspections despite coronavirus

by Lea Legraien
6 March 2020

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The CQC will continue to inspect GP practices despite the NHS preparing to tackle a coronavirus emergency.

The watchdog said ‘most inspections will continue’ despite the Government setting out an NHS-wide ‘battle plan’ yesterday.

A CQC update said: ‘We will still be carrying out inspections, but inspection managers will be reviewing inspection plans on an ongoing basis to make sure our activity is aligned with the very latest position.

‘Most inspections will continue as planned in the short term. We will keep the position under review and may decide to postpone an inspection, perhaps with relatively short notice.

‘We will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to how and when we regulate as and when this situation develops, and we commit to continuing conversations with providers and their representative organisations.’

The CQC’s move comes despite health secretary Matt Hancock saying that the next phase of the Government’s response to the virus could see broader measures introduced to ‘relieve pressure on the NHS’.

GPs have already come under significant pressure due to the coronavirus crisis.

A slew of practices across England – at least 20 at the latest count – shut their doors for cleaning after the Government announced that 85 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK so far. 

Public Health England (PHE) recently announced it would carry out ‘random’ coronavirus tests across 100 GP practices.

They have also dealt with a lack of available protective equipment and claims that NHS 111 was signposting potential coronavirus cases to GP practices.

Management in Practice’s sister publications, Pulse, revealed this week that GPs in Essex have been told they could not close for Time to Learn training because NHS 111 is ‘under increased pressure and seeing unprecedented call volumes’.

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said: ‘Our role is to give the public assurance that health and social care services are safe – this role continues to be important as novel coronavirus emerges.

‘Our aim is to balance the need for public reassurance with our impact on health and social care providers. 

‘This means we will be concentrating our activity where it is needed most to ensure people receive safe care, going where we can make the biggest difference, and offering a front line perspective across the whole health and social care system.

‘Most inspections will continue as planned for now, but we will keep our programme of work under review as events unfold.  

‘CQC also has significant intelligence, resource and skill which we can offer the wider response to novel coronavirus. We have offered our direct support to colleagues at NHS England and Public Health England.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said reducing GP practice inspections would be a ‘sensible step’.

He said: ‘With the daily increase in cases and its expected spread, it would be wrong to expect practices to devote much-needed time and resources to prepare for and accommodate inspections. Practices must not be distracted from their primary focus of ensuring the ongoing care of their patients.

‘It’s important to note, however, that even once infection rates have peaked and Covid-19 pressures subside, practices will go through a difficult recovery phase, which could take many months for them to return to normal activity – this must not be lost on CQC as it reviews its plans in the months ahead.’