DAUK’s GP Team write to the CQC calling for inspections to pause during the pandemic

The GP Committee at DAUK wrote to the CQC on December 12 to call for inspections to be placed on hold while we deal with the pandemic:

Dear Ian Trenholm,

We are writing to you regarding the resumption of CQC inspections for GP surgeries across the country. On March 16 , the CQC announced that annual inspections would be paused in light of the pandemic, a decision that was welcomed by several GP groups including the RCGP.

Primary care is under a huge deal of strain at the moment. The recruitment, retention and workforce issues which pre-date the global COVID-19 pandemic are still present. On top of that GP surgeries have had to deal with an almost overnight shift into new remote ways of working, managing rising workloads and patient demand, dealing with the backlog of patients from secondary care who have been lost to follow-up or had routine outpatient treatment delayed.

We were therefore dismayed to note inspections were resumed as early as July. Our concerns are now growing as we are now well into the throes of the second wave of the pandemic, and trying to roll out the largest ever vaccine campaign, of a new novel vaccine, in the hardest winter the NHS has ever seen, as well as provide routine work.

To expect colleagues to then face the additional stress and added administrative burden of a CQC inspection is unrealistic and provides GPs with none of the support or morale boost that they need, having worked above and beyond for the last nine months during this pandemic.

It is shocking to us to hear that our colleagues are not only shouldering these compounded stressors, but that in some cases it has led to them becoming physically unwell as a result. We have just been contacted regarding a GP working in Kent, who was rushed to hospital with acute chest pain following an incredibly stressful CQC inspection. During such unprecedented times when we are not only working to keep our patients safe, but seeing colleagues around us fall ill and succumb to COVID-19, it is difficult to see how the commencement of such inspections is justified.

This betrays a lack of trust in GPs, and is not what it is needed right now. As we rely on primary care to successfully lead us through a novel vaccination campaign larger than any the NHS has ever seen, the government and regulatory bodies need to put their faith and trust in primary care, and expecting inspections to go on whilst GPs are juggling these additional stressful factors simply does not relay a message of confidence in primary care.

We recognise that inspection and regulation is a vitally important part of ensuring good standards of care across the nation, however we feel that these processes need to resume outside of a global pandemic. Unprecedented times require an unprecedented approach.

We therefore call on you to halt and delay CQC inspections until such time as the healthcare system is back to its normal function, and GPs are better able to evidence the consistent quality of care they have been providing during this time.

Yours sincerely,

The Doctors’ Association UK GP Committee