GP surgeries told ‘improve or close’

The CQC has unveiled a new regime for GP inspections that could see inadequate surgeries closed down if improvements aren’t made.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced the details of the new special measures regime for GP surgeries to commence in October to coincide with the new inspection process for general practice.

Under the new regime, surgeries rated as ‘inadequate’ will have six months to improve or be placed ‘special measures’. If a further six months passes with no change, the surgery could face a termination of their contract with NHS England.

Professor Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of GPs, stressed that “most GP practices provide good care” and “a very tine percentage are letting the rest of them down”.

He said: “we can’t allow those that provide poor care to continue to let their patients have an inadequate service.”

This approach is already being applied to hospital inspections and GP surgeries in special measures will be offered some support via a pilot scheme run by NHS England and the Royal College of GPs. However, “ultimate responsibility” for improvements will remain with the practice, stressed Professor Field.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the move to address what she described as occasional but “very real variation in the quality of care”, stressing that “patients should expect high quality and consistent care from every GP practice”.

However, she warned that some practices “are struggling to meet quality standards” due to “factors beyond their control”, such as high workloads or inadequate resources.

This view was echoed by Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the British Medical Association, who said: “It is right GPs are held to account, but in many circumstances failures are more about the environment they work in than individual practice.”

The new regime will commence in October, with the CQC aiming to visit each practice at least once by April 2016.