The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced details of its new approach to inspecting and regulating GP professionals and related out-of-hours services, which will be coming into effect next year.
CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field has confirmed that individual GP practices will be subject to the new system of inspections from April 2014, with assessment teams to include a CQC inspector, a GP, a practice nurse or practice manager and a trainee GP, as well as a member of the public with relevant experience in certain cases.
Every clinical commissioning group area will be visited every six months in order to ascertain that they are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people's needs and well-led. Care of vulnerable patients - including homeless people, people with learning disabilities and older people - will be a key priority in these evaluations.
Out-of-hours services will be coming under the spotlight to ensure their standards match those of other GP services, while the regulator is also keen to investigate how well care is organised when more than one type of service is involved.
The aim of this new model of inspection will be to involve a wide range of healthcare sector stakeholders - including patients - in the process, while ensuring that the full benefits of integrated, joined-up care models are delivered to NHS patients.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Patients have a right to expect the best care from their GP practice. That's why we have introduced this new, tougher system of inspection which will root out poor standards and celebrate the best.
"The new chief inspector will champion the views of patients, giving them more information so they can make better informed choices about services."
Following this announcement, the British Medical Association pledged to work with the CQC to ensure standards are continually improved, while addressing any infrastructure and resource constraints that could be holding back progress.
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