The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will not launch an inquiry into its process for inspecting GP practices, despite 145 GP practices calling for one in an open letter.
In March, the Doctor’s Association UK (DAUK) published an open letter to the Commission calling for a ‘full enquiry and overhaul of the CQC inspection process’, after some ‘aggressive and unreasonable’ inspections had taken place.
In a response dated 28 June, CQC’s chief inspector for primary care, Dr Rosie Benneyworth, said that ‘bullying and harassment is unacceptable in all circumstances’ and that her ‘expectation is that CQC inspectors act professionally at all times’.
However, the letter did not address the call for a full inquiry.
Dr Benneyworth instead said that the CQC’s new monitoring approach, which was developed during the pandemic and published earlier this month, reflects ‘the pressure providers are under’ and will remain in place.
She added that she is ‘keen to continue to develop’ the CQC’s regulatory approach for general practice – in line with the aims set out in its new strategy – so that it is ‘proportionate’ and ‘helps ensure people receive safe and effective care’.
Management in Practice reported earlier this month that the CQC’s new monitoring approach set out its plan to begin ‘sampling’ services and carrying out monthly risk reviews.
A CQC spokesperson told Management in Practice: ‘While we do not intend to launch an inquiry, work has already been carried out to review our approach across all sectors, which has changed from how things operated before the pandemic.
‘We are committed to continuous improvement and review of our processes, involving people who work in and use services along the way.’
The CQC has invited DAUK representatives to ‘discuss their concerns in person’.
Inspections ‘aggressive and unreasonable’
In its March letter, the DAUK said the CQC’s decision to resume inspections was ‘unfortunate and unacceptable’, and that they had been conducted ‘in an aggressive and unreasonable manner that can no longer be tolerated’.
It called for a ‘simplified’ and ‘evidence-based’ approach to the inspections grounded in ‘mutual respect, understanding, collaboration’ and support.
It suggested CQC inspections be reduced in frequency unless there have been concerns within the previous three to five years, and for inspections to be suspended for the duration of the pandemic.
It also said that GP teams were aware of reports that the CQC has issued threats of practice closures and fines, which have heaped ‘undue pressure on colleagues’.
It added that many practices feel ‘unable to air their grievances’ over the CQC inspection process, which can take ‘days or weeks’ to prepare for.
The 145 signatories called for a ‘full investigation into such practices and behaviours’, adding that the NHS has a ‘zero tolerance policy’ to bullying and harassment, and that they ‘demand that CQC respect our position’.
CQC inspections of services that had previously breached regulations, as well as those rated as ‘requires improvement’ without any regulatory breaches, resumed in April 2021, after routine inspections were paused in March 2020.