GPs at the British Medical Association’s (“BMA”) annual conference voted that the Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) regime for inspection of GP practices is “unfit for purpose”, with the Royal College of GPs adding to the dialogue; calling for an “emergency pause” of the inspection process.
The aim of the inspection regime, introduced last year, is to provide a rating of each GP practice to act as a mark of quality and good practise. So far 1,000 of the 8,000 GP practices in England have undergone the inspection.
The main criticism of the inspection process is its focus on paperwork and other time consuming administrative tasks which, it is estimated, costs each GP 120 hours a year. That time could be spent with patients. The President of the RCGP, Dr Maureen Baker, said “The current inspection process tends to focus on those things that can be most easily documented and generates considerable additional clinical and administrative activity for practices”.
At a time when GP practices are under increasing pressure to see more patients and open 7 days a week, their frustration over an increasing administrative burden is understandable. Although, good record keeping can often be the saving grace for GPs and other medics when it comes to defending medical negligence claims. So, there may be some value in the CQC’s approach.
The CQC have hit back at the outcry, with the Chief Inspector of General Practice, Professor Steve Field, declaring his extreme disappointment of the criticism, given that one in seven GP’s are not providing patients with the care they should expect. “In the last few weeks alone, we have found some seriously deficient primary care, which has led us to cancelling the registrations of some practices, in the interests of protecting the safety and quality of care for people who use these services”, he said.
The CQC is quite right to highlight the need to improve standard by some failing GPs, however given that a GP’s primary role is to provide care to patients, one must question whether a regime that focuses on paperwork, rather than examination and assessments taking place in the room at each consultation, is the correct approach. It remains to be seen whether the BMA vote will lead to changes in the way that GPs are assessed.
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