Secret Diary of a PM – How to prepare for a CQC Phone Inspection

In a previous blog I mentioned that my GP practice was scheduled to have its first CQC telephone interview – part of the new annual regulatory reviews for primary care providers. So how did we find it?

Of course, we were all a little apprehensive, which I think is understandable when approaching the unknown. To top it off, two days before the interview we were told that our inspector had been changed… 

How we put together our initial plans

During the initial telephone call, we negotiated a time and day to suit us. Soon after we received an email confirming the agreed details, as well as more information about the format of the call and a copy of the detailed questions they were going to ask.

The first thing to decide was who we wanted at the conference call and then send each of them a copy of the questions to answer individually. After that, we collated those responses and looked at areas where we could be lacking the necessary evidence we needed to provide.

We then proceeded to gather that evidence and slowly the four-page document became 13 pages full of answers. A lot of work was put in, and we met several times to go through things - we were still adding detail on the day of the interview. On the original call we were told the call would last about 50 minutes and planned accordingly.

The day of the phone inspection arrives

The day of the conference call came and we followed instructions to call the CQC. We got through and introduced the five people who would be contributing to the answers and off we went.

They stick in the main to the standard 22 questions, however they can go off on little tangents, so we had to think on our feet and actually came up with answers that we had not accounted for in our notes.

It soon became clear to us that the interview was going to last longer than the agreed 50 minutes, and indeed at the hour mark we were automatically cut off the phone line and asked to comment on the CQC service.  We found this quite funny.

We soon got reconnected and continued for another hour before we had got through everything.

Reflections on how the day went

Our experience was very positive, the interviewer was genuinely interested in what we said and did pass comment on the evidence we were giving. The interview ended after two hours and we were told the result there and then, which would later be confirmed in writing.

So what advice can I offer to others about to go through the process?

  • Make sure you have enough people in the call to react to questions. I would advise you need more that the Practice Manager and the registered manager.
  • Look at your last report and ensure you have answers to the points raised in it, as the CQC will want to see you have addressed them
  • Provide as much detail as you can, and ensure you take an enthusiastic approach.
  • Answer honestly - and if you do not have the answer, be open about it.
  • Engage with the interviewer and remember they are typing up the comments as you speak, so there may be awkward pauses.
  • Ensure that different people answer the questions - and be on the guard for questions not on the sheet.
  • We used bits of paper to prompt each other with bullet points, and also encouraged each other with a thumbs-up!
  • Be prepared that when they ask you for an example, as they may then ask for a second example.

Overall, I felt that the whole exercise was really good. At first, I wondered how you can be assessed over a telephone, but I can understand the merits of doing it this way. On the plus side, it gives one time to stop and see how much we offer patients and how good our service is.

So, what’s next?

Practices can now expect a full inspection every five years and an Annual Regulatory Review (ARR) each year in between. However, you may receive a more focused inspection sooner than that if any concerns are raised or there is evidence that the quality of care at your practice has changed since the last full inspection.

We were last inspected in 2016 so realistically we can expect a full visit end of 2020 or early 2021 and so our next move will be to build on the evidence gathered and update it regularly so we are fully prepared.  

We also feel that outstanding will be a realistic aim next time. Good luck to everyone taking part in their first phone interviews.

Want to learn more about how to excel in a CQC inspection? Award-winning training providers Thornfields’ Preparing for a CQC Inspection course helps Practice Managers and their teams ensure they are fully aware of the requirements for CQC compliance.


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