A survey of GPs carried out by the British Medical Association indicates a low level of confidence in the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) inspection regime, prompting calls for a reform of the system.

The vast majority - 90 percent - of GP practices consider inspection ratings too simplistic or misleading to measure quality of care accurately, while 80 percent said checking their services eats into GPs time with patients and also increases their stress levels, according to the survey.

Eighty percent say the workload to prepare for a CQC inspection is ‘excessive’, while three in four GPs say the inspection system makes them more likely to want to leave general practice.

The BMA GPs committee is now calling for a “wholesale” reform of CQC inspections because of their potentially “damaging, negative” impact. Doctors say the system has eroded moral and has hit the sustainability of general practice. 

“GPs are being forced to divert valuable time away from treating patients towards the endless box ticking, paperwork and bureaucracy that is the hallmark of this programme,” said GPC chair Chaand Nagpaul.

“It is unacceptable that precious resources and time is being taken away from patient care when general practice is under unprecendented pressure from soaring patient demand, falling resources, staff shortages and unresourced work being moved from hospitals into the community”.

Addressing the Local Medical Committees conference in London, Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has called for an immediate suspension of the inspection process. 

Not fit for purpose

“We all know the current inspection regime for general practice is not fit for purpose and has to change”, she stressed. “Of course some form of regulation is necessary, but the system should be working to support practices – not beating them with a stick because a GP has not attended a refresher training course on how to resuscitate”.

The CQC has now launched a large-scale review of its approach, and “this is an important opportunity to drastically change the inspection regime and ensure it upholds standards of care whilst letting good GP practices get on with the job they are there to do,” she argued.

Findings of the survey, to which there were 1,900 respondents, also come as the CQC plans to increase its fees, which the BMA is strongly opposing as “exorbitant and inexplicable”.