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Face-to-face CQC inspections will not return for all practices for the ‘foreseeable future’

by Jess Hacker
15 September 2021

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In person Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections for outstanding practices will not return for the ‘foreseeable future’, its chief inspector for primary care said.

Speaking at Management in Practice London yesterday (14 September), Rosie Benneyworth, chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care, said that the CQC ‘certainly for the foreseeable future’ would not be doing more face-to-face inspections of ‘outstanding’ practices.

However, she would not rule out the possibility of reintroducing them at some point post-pandemic.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the CQC paused its routine inspections to focus on activity where there was a serious risk to people’s safety.

However, this ruling was relaxed in April 2021 when the CQC said it would resume inspections of GP services which had previously been identified as breaching regulations.

This included those rated as inadequate, requires improvement and good, along with services rated as requires improvement where there are no breaches of regulations, it said.

When asked yesterday if limit to face-to-face inspections would be carried beyond the pandemic, Ms Benneyworth said: ‘I’m not going to sit here today and say we’ll never go back to face-to-face inspections for good and outstanding practices, because I don’t know and we want to be flexible, we want to be responsive.’

She added however that while the CQC is currently undertaking face-to-face inspections based on risk, she hopes the Commission can get its ‘monitoring systems good enough so that we can pick up risks through that without having to cross the threshold’.

Earlier in the panel, she had said there was ‘no need to restart routine inspections in the way we used to do them’.

The CQC’s monitoring approach was last updated in June, where it set out its plan to begin ‘sampling’ services to ensure inspections are consistent.

In recent months and throughout the pandemic, the CQC had come under some criticism from GPs, namely for behaviour by inspectors which was perceived as inappropriate.

Two weeks ago, a small survey found that more than 70% of GPs from minority ethnic backgrounds described ‘CQC inspections and the behaviour of the CQC inspection team has been a traumatic experience, rather than a positive and constructive experience’.

Commenting on reports of such behaviour at the panel on Tuesday, Ms Benneyworth said: ‘I expect my inspectors to behave professionally, supportively, constructively. If that’s not happening, let me know.’

Elsewhere at the event, leading GP Dr Farzana Hussain said that Integrated care systems (ICS) will not help solve the current GP shortage.