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Networking is vital for highly-rated practices, says CQC chief

16 December 2015

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Networking with other practices is fundamental for high-performing practices, the chief inspector of general practice at the Care Quality Commission, Steve Field, explained.

“The better practices link in with other practices, share their data, share their performance improvement, and share their services… And link into community services very well. It’s about the networking versus the professional isolation,” Field told the Health Select Committee this week.

Field was there to give evidence about the current state of general practice, along with Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association GP Committee, and Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs.

The CQC chief clarified that it’s not the size of practices that equal success, and also noted that highly performing practices often have multi-disciplinary teams.

He controversially said that he was “ashamed that some of my colleagues are providing inadequate care for citizens” but can “understand the pushback of the profession” in terms of CQC inspections since it’s the first time general practice has been regulated.

Nagpaul criticised the current CQC system, stating that at the moment “it feels threatening to GPs, it feels a judgement, what we need is for practices that are going through difficult moments to be able to put their hands up and say I need some help, I want to improve.”

He said that ranking practices without understanding the context of their funding doesn’t help, and instead the data on quality needs to be real-time and more professionally built-in professionally-owned assurance, for example through monthly checks carried out by the practice itself.

Baker called for less of a burden for practices undergoing inspections, calling on the CQC to focus on minimum standards necessary.

“The biggest issue for safety at the moment is doctor fatigue,” Baker said: “however the CQC doesn’t look at that when considering whether a practice is safe.”

The CQC is starting to work with NHS England and the GMC on the workload associated with inspections, Field revealed, in order “to reduce the data load, the workload with general practice, so that we collect data once and that’s used for many different reasons.”

The future of the CQC looks set to focus on monitoring, which Field said is “more important than inspection.”