GP practices providing poor care could be closed if they fail to improve, according to NHS regulator. the Care Quality Commission.

The CQC will begin to introduce special measures doctor surgeries from October this year. in tandem with its plan to rate 8,000 NHS GP practices on the basis of whether they are outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. If they are rated inadequate, the service will have six months to improve and if the problem persists, “their contract with NHS England will be terminated”.

In some cases, “when we believe poor care is putting patients at risk or that a practice is not capable of improving on its own, we will put the practice straight into special measures”, the CQC added. Chief inspector of general practice, Steve Field, noted that most provide good care and “we have confirmed this in our pilot inspections so far. But we can't allow those that provide poor care to continue to let their patients have an inadequate service”.

In response, the Royal College of General Practioners chair, Maureen Baker, noted that “the vast majority of practices do an excellent job”. However, she acknowledged that “there are also a small number of practices who are struggling to meet quality standards, often due to factors beyond their control, such as lack of funding, significant increases in patient consultations and difficulties in trying to recruit sufficient GPs to meet patients’ needs”.

If this is the case, Dr Baker said “the solution is not to ‘label’ them but to look at what support they need to bring them up to scratch”. She noted that the RCGP will not take part in the inspection process or in making judgments about the work of individual practices, but its involvement will “ensure that the so-called  ‘special measures’ do not become another stick with which to beat hardworking GPs, and that they do not damage patient care by increasing the already unrealistic workloads of GPs who are doing their absolute best “.

Dr Baker added that family doctors are carrying out 340 million consultations a year - 40 million more than five years ago - “routinely working 11 hour days and seeing up to 60 patients in a day to try and meet the demand”. However, funds are “at an all-time low of just over 8% of the total NHS budget…general practice is in an extremely fragile state and we urgently need more funding”.