- Posted Wednesday July 1, 2020
The Care Quality Commission has been criticised after announcing they would be restarting inspections from this autumn, following the lifting of quarantine restrictions by the UK government.
They confirmed that inspectors are scheduling visits over the summer and planning a phased return to regular inspections over Autumn 2020, starting with routine inspections of ‘lower-risk’ GP Practices.
However, GP leaders have expressed concern over the timing of their decision and stressed the need for caution during the pandemic. Instead, they have urged they use the time as an opportunity to overhaul their inspection processes.
Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the BMA GP Committee, highlighted the amount of pressure that GP Practices have been under to comply with the lockdown restrictions and provide a safe service for patients by completely reorganising the way they have worked, something that has not been quick or easy to implement.
“They have done this without many of the regulatory burdens forced upon them previously, allowing them the space to innovate and dedicate more time to patients”.
Professor Clare Gerada, former Chair of the RCGP, wrote an open letter to the CQC, urging them to reconsider their decision and delay for another year.
”We are at the beginning of the first recovery phase from Covid-19” Professor Gerada wrote, “the NHS as a whole is faced with re-prioritising and rescheduling work and practices are now having to adjust to working in new ways. As you can appreciate, this is very challenging, and even now systems are not fully embedded and to inspect now seems unreasonable”.
The current RCGP Chair, Professor Martin Marshall, also expressed the organisation’s concern at restarting inspections, saying that GPs should be trusted to run their services without “tick boxes”.
“We would like to see policy makers trust GPs and our teams to do our best for patients – and give us the time to do so – by replacing a focus on tick box accountability with one of trust and proportionality.”
He added that the RCGP will be publishing their own report which includes recommendations around how the regulatory burden on GPs can be reduced while maintaining patient safety in the next few weeks.
The CQC had stopped routine inspections on 16th March, during which time practices across the country had drastically reduced appointments and rushed through the implementation of remote/video consultations following instruction from NHS England. On-site inspections were replaced with a ‘remote’ monitoring system which focused on GP practices where they had been alerted to risk, which led to three inspections prompted by concerns raised by practice staff or members of the public.
The decision to restart inspections was made following an increase in calls to the CQC from practice staff who were concerned about the care being provided during the pandemic conditions, with fears over the way infection control or social distancing was being implemented
In closing her letter to the CQC, Professor Gerada said “GPs and their teams now need to re-group, to mourn the loss of friends, family and colleagues and to have a period of reflection to help them digest what they have been through and in so doing be in a position to support their staff and patients. They do not need the added work, distraction and psychological burden of preparing for an inspection, no matter how limited.”
“I urge you to seriously consider my request as it will at least take one pressure off an already psychologically traumatised profession.”