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CQC announces date for next phase of general practice regulation

21 September 2020

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will begin its transitional regulatory approach for general practice from 19 October, the regulator has announced. 

The CQC said this model, announced last month, means it can carry out targeted visits to providers, where it remotely identifies concerns about quality of care, but without returning to a routine programme of planned inspections.

In a joint statement, the organisation’s chief inspectors said they will take a ‘strengthened’ but ‘flexible’ approach to regulation, following the adoption of the Emergency Support Framework (ESF) in response to the pandemic in May.

Changes to rating

Under the new approach,  the regulator will be able to re-rate services ‘in a limited number of cases’ following an inspection, but it said that decisions around this will vary between different sectors.

The statement said: ‘As our inspections will be more targeted and focused around areas of risk, we may not always cover all aspects of our five key questions and our Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs). As a result, our inspections may not always lead to a change in rating for a service.’

No further action will be taken against a provider where, following a review, inspectors determine the care given presents a ‘low level of risk’ to patients, it added. 

Deciding which practices to visit

The CQC will continue its programme of remote monitoring, using data and consistent conversations with practices to identify where there are risks of unsafe care, prompting an inspection. 

The regulator added it will gather feedback from people who use the services, as well as consider information it holds about local systems, through Provider Collaboration Reviews (PCRs), to locate where there are wider barriers to good care. 

‘Sensitive to circumstances of providers’

The statement said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, our regulatory role did not change. Our core purpose of keeping people safe was always driving our decisions. However, as the risks from the pandemic change, we’re evolving our approach in a way that is both sensitive to the changing circumstances of providers, and that also puts people who use services at the centre of what we do.’

It added that the pandemic has meant the CQC cannot return to its fixed timetable of inspections due to ‘the pressures on providers and the risk of spreading infection’, and that it is ‘unlikely’ it will return to normal frequency ‘in the near future’. 

‘We will continue to adapt our transitional regulatory approach, and remain responsive as the situation changes. We’ll also be considering longer-term changes to how we regulate, which we’ll explore through engagement on our future strategy,’ the CQC said. 

Last month, the regulator announced it would be piloting a new approach to assessing and monitoring the performance of GP practices remotely, which avoids in-person visits ‘as far as possible’.

The transitional regulatory approach will be rolled out to adult social care first on 6 October, NHS trusts on 12 October, and urgent care and out-of-hours services with practices on 19 October.