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Phone calls rather than inspections for practices of concern

by Sofia Lind
5 December 2016

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Practices of concern may receive a phone call rather than a visit from the CQC inspector in future, the deputy inspector of general practice has said.

Ruth Rankine said this would form part of the CQC’s new approach from October next year, by which time all GP practices will have already been inspected and rated once.

She said CQC ‘feels comfortable’ moving to this new approach, because a vast majority of GP practices were rated good or outstanding in this first round of inspections, and CQC ‘can already see improvements are being made’ in those requiring improvement.

But she said this would be based on GP practices and CQC having a ‘collaborative’ relationship, and CQC collating and monitoring a wider range of ‘intelligence’ on practices that could flag up potential problems.

She told the Westminster Health Forum conference yesterday that this would done via a new programme called ‘GP Insight’, which will be ‘a collation of the qualitative and quantitative information that we have around providers that will tell us on an ongoing basis about the quality of care being delivered’.

CQC will be monitoring that data ‘on an ongoing basis, and we will be looking for any changes in those indicators that might signal that we might need to do something, or not’, she said.

But that whereas in the current system, ‘if we were worried about something we would inspect [as] our first course of action’, in the new system the CQC may take a more laid-back approach.

Ms Rankine said: ‘Actually our first course of action in the future might be a phone call to the practice, to understand what has happened, so that we are able to have some context to the change, and then from there we decide whether or not we need to take further action.

‘It is part of a more collaborative approach, working with providers to understand what is happening and where they may need support.’

She also said that ‘as with any organisation in the public sector we have a decreasing budget so we need to think differently about how we do things and what we focus on’.

But she added: ‘What will stay the same is we will still be a regulator and inspections will remain central to our assessment of quality.’

The CQC will launch a two-month consultation on GP Insight and what data will be collected on practices in March. The consultation will also focus on the CQC’s plans to amend GP registration to fit with new care models such as multispeciality community providers (MCPs) and federations.

Other issues raised by the deputy inspector included reducing the burden of registration for practices, with Ms Rankine saying this would become a ‘more agile’ process, the ‘depth and length’ of which would depend on the level of risk associated with the provider.

Ms Rankine also said that the work pledged in the GP Forward View earlier this year to reduce the burden of regulation on GP practices had now begun, with a regulatory programme board formed with representatives also including GMC, CCGs, NHS England and HEE.

The news comes as the CQC is set to streamline its organisation by shedding 400 staff positions by 2020, but also as GP practices’ CQC fees are due to rise by more than three-quarters next year.

It also comes after the furore over the CQC’s previous version of so-called ‘intelligent monitoring’ data in 2014, which was published in full and claimed that a fifth of practices were ‘high risk’ despite not having their inspection yet.

This article was originally published on our sister publication, Pulse.