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CQC to pilot regulation approach that avoids visiting practices ‘as far as is possible’

17 August 2020

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A new approach to assessing and monitoring the performance of GP practices remotely, which avoids in-person visits ‘as far as possible’, is to be piloted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

Dr Rosie Benneyworth, the CQC’s chief inspector of primary medical services, said in a blog that the approach will be tested with a small number of GP practices and will involve inspection teams digitally accessing clinical records for assessment where needed.

‘This means that inspection teams will be working as far as is possible without visiting the service,’ she said. 

The pilot will focus on ‘areas of risk’ and will be limited to practices where the CQC has found breaches in regulation or potential risks to patients, and those that are in special measures, the chief inspector said. 

She added that participation is voluntary and the check is not an inspection, nor will it result in a rating. 

The CQC will contact practices it would like to use this approach in the coming weeks.

New 2021 strategy 

From September, the CQC will also start its transitional regulatory approach, which does mean a return to some in-person visits, but not to the organisation’s pre Covid-19 approach in its entirety. Inspections will focus on providers where there are risks to safety and people’s human rights and evidence that the quality of care needs to improve, the regulator has said. 

The organisation also plans to use more information it holds about individual providers and local health systems to better understand ‘where there are barriers to good care’, Dr Benneyworth said. 

In a separate blog piece, CQC chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said the regulator is developing a new strategy to launch in May 2021, which will reflect new ways of working that have emerged within health and social care during the pandemic. There will be a full public consultation on the strategy in January 2021, he added.

‘We cannot, we will not, revert back to before’

This comes after health secretary Matt Hancock endorsed the emergency changes regulatory bodies, including the CQC, have made during the pandemic in a speech at the Royal College of Physicians last month (July).

Mr Hancock said the changes had given staff freedom to make decisions, while continuing to protect patient safety. 

He added that ‘the sky didn’t fall in’ after the CQC adopted the Emergency Support Framework in May, which saw the regulator use data and conversations with practices to identify problems and target support where needed, following its decision to pause routine inspections.

He said: ‘On the contrary. The NHS was protected, patient safety was protected, and, crucially, frontline staff felt empowered…so, we cannot, we will not, revert back to before.’

Several health bodies also criticised the CQC in June after it announced it would return to routine inspections in the autumn. They called the decision ‘completely inappropriate’ and urged for an ‘overhaul’ of the inspection model.