CQC suspends inspections in response to winter pressures

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 10 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k137
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced that it will suspend inspections for nearly all general practices and other parts of the NHS that have a “good” or “outstanding” rating, to help services manage intense pressures this winter.

The regulator said that it had made the decision in response to increased pressure on the NHS and social care, as services try to manage increased demand partly due to a rise in respiratory illness and flu.

The BMA welcomed the announcement and urged NHS England to consider suspending other bureaucratic tasks that diverted GPs and other professionals from delivering frontline care.

From 10 January the CQC has temporarily paused re-inspections of any GP clinics and urgent services such as NHS 111 or GP out-of-hours that have been rated “good” or “outstanding,” where no concerns about quality or safety are indicated. But re-inspections of services rated as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” will continue as scheduled, as will inspections to follow up on specific concerns.

For the rest of January, the regulator said that it would consider rescheduling planned routine inspections of acute NHS trusts on the basis of individual circumstances. Responsive inspections of trusts based on concerns about quality or safety will continue as usual.

Any inspections deferred during January will be rescheduled as soon as possible, said the CQC, and a normal inspection schedule is expected to resume in February, subject to review.

Mark Sanford-Wood, chair of the BMA’s general practitioners committee, welcomed the CQC’s announcement. He said, “This process is extremely time consuming and places an additional burden on staff and resources, a situation that we can ill afford when large parts of the health service are under unprecedented pressure from rising demand and workforce shortages this winter.”

But he added, “We do need NHS England to demonstrate similar understanding and work with the BMA to agree measures to remove performance targets and other system measurements to release clinicians for frontline clinical care for the benefit of patients.”

Helen Stokes Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that the CQC had made a “timely and sensible decision . . . now more than ever, it is critical that GPs’ valuable time is spent where it is needed most—on the front line of patient care.”

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