In an unprecedented move, three GP surgeries in England have been placed into special measures by the Care Quality Commission and face closure if they continue to fail to meet normal quality standards.

The NHS watchdog said that five practices in all were deemed as ‘inadequate’ after an inspection uncovered “significant areas of concern”, although two of these were already showing signs of improvement and thus escaped the special measures procedure at this time. 

Practices in Liverpool, Sale in Cheshire and Reading, however, have been offered a package of support by NHS England to help them improve, after failing on a series of quality indicators such as safety, efficacy, staffing and patient response.

“We will only cancel the registration of a GP practice if we think it is absolutely necessary - and in any case our priority will be to help the practice improve, if that is appropriate,” the CQC said, adding that it will “work closely with NHS England who will ensure that people registered at that practice continue to have access to safe and high quality general practice”.

Royal College of General Practitioners Chair Maureen Baker said “it is crucial that we urgently address any variations in quality of care” but also stressed “the vast majority of GP practices that have been inspected are providing excellent patient care”.