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CQC to scrap access-focused GP inspections

by Caitlin Tilley
25 February 2022

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The CQC will not resume focused inspections regarding GP access, which had formed part of the Government’s winter access plans.

The controversial inspections had been paused, along with all other unannounced inspections, while GPs were focusing on the Covid booster programme.

However, the first 40 access inspections, which took place during November and December, had found ‘no current issues’ with access at any practice.

And in an update to primary care providers sent yesterday, the CQC said the access-focused inspections would not resume.

The bulletin said: ‘We will be maintaining a focus on issues around access through our usual inspection activity and will not now carry out focused inspections on access only.’

The access-focused inspections were part of NHS England’s Winter Access Plan, which asked the CQC to work with NHS England to ‘make the required improvements across those practices which are not meeting people’s reasonable needs’.

Asked why they are now being scrapped, a CQC spokesperson said: ‘The specific prompts that have helped us to understand and report how practices are dealing with demand around access have now helped us to develop how we look at access in our usual inspection activity.’

They also stressed that ‘access has always been an important part of our inspections’, as part of the ‘key question’: ‘Is a service responsive to people’s needs?’

The CQC spokesperson added: ‘GPs and practice teams have worked incredibly hard to explore and expand the way they use face-to-face, telephone, text and video consultations over the last two years. 

‘At the same time, we have worked with GPs and listened to people using services to make sure how we ask about access keeps up with these developments – being mindful of the wider environment, clinical need, and the benefits and limitations of different ways of working.’

NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.

The access-focused inspections that did go ahead had been structured around a series of statements relating to accessibility and did not result in any change in ratings for practices.

The winter plan followed months of public and media backlash during the pandemic over the idea that GP practices were closed and GPs were not seeing patients face to face.

Meanwhile, the CQC was last week accused of ‘soliciting negative GP feedback’ after data from its ‘Give feedback on care’ portal showed a 176% rise in complaints, despite the CQC running campaigns for patients to raise concerns through the portal last year.

The CQC also recently admitted its inspection and monitoring methodology ‘may inadvertently disadvantage’ ethnic minority-run GP practices, leading to ‘inequities’.

This stort first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.