Response to the care quality commission publication of ‘intelligent monitoring of GP practices’

The national and local press have published stories in the last few days about practices that may be putting their patients ‘at risk’ through various shortcomings that have been identified as part of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) ‘Intelligent Monitoring of GP Practices’ approach. The CQC states on their website that “…this isn’t a judgement on GPs. The profiles bring together information that helps us make decisions about inspections.”

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, is also quoted as saying “It is important to remember that the data is not a judgement as it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care. The data is a further tool that will help us to decide where to inspect and when.”

Nottinghamshire Local Medical Committee, the statutory body that represents, advises and supports local GPs, feel that it is necessary to highlight that publication of stories based on this monitoring tool will portray many practices in an unfair light and cause unnecessary worry and anxiety to many patients.

General Practice is very much at the heart of the NHS and enjoys high satisfaction rates from patients and this selective reporting is potentially damaging to the GPs and their staff that devote their careers to serving their populations.

Chris Locke, Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire LMC, said: “General practice across the UK is suffering unprecedented pressures at present due to a toxic combination of rising patient demand (in common with the rest of the NHS) falling recruitment and staff morale, rising expenses and falling income. The regime by which practices’ performance is judged fails to take the effect of these pressures into account and while increasing amounts of GPs’ time is taken up preparing for and responding to regulatory inspections the hostile press coverage which this generates can only serve to damage the morale of all those currently struggling to maintain services for patients and put off young doctors from opting for a career in general practice. This year there was a 40% vacancy rate for the GPs vocational training scheme in the East Midlands. In future we would welcome the publication of good news stories that occur every day in general practice.”

In most of the locally quoted cases the CQC hasn’t visited the practices yet or made a judgement on the quality of the services provided. The CQC have set a target to inspect ALL practices by April 2016.