GP surgeries face closure unless they improve services, including investing in out-of-date buildings, regulators have warned.
Alan Rosenbach, special policy lead at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), was speaking at the Latest Developments in Primary Healthcare Property conference in London last week.
He said that changes to CQC inspection regimes would see more pressure put on GPs to demonstrate that services were safe, effective, responsive, caring and well led. And he warned that those that did not come up to scratch faced closure.
“We have introduced a new inspection programme through which we will monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety,” he said.
“We will then publish what we find, including performance ratings to help people choose services in the future.”
A new set of ratings will be introduced from April this year, providing a framework for future inspections. These will include ensuring buildings from which services are delivered meet quality standards in terms of suitability, cleanliness and access, among others.
Rosenbach said: “The regulations will become a much more rigorous test. We will require providers to be able to demonstrate that they are able to deliver high-quality and safe services and that they understand the legal commitment they are signing up to. There is still some work to do on that.
“Moving forward we want to see where there are risks in the system so we know where to prioritise our inspection activity.”
We will require providers to be able to demonstrate that they are able to deliver high-quality and safe services and that they understand the legal commitment they are signing up to. There is still some work to do on that
Only recently, a number of GP practices in England were placed into special measures by the CQC. Others are at risk of action being taken unless they make widespread improvements.
Rosenbach said: “We will only place practices into special measures when we are concerned about the ability of the leadership to address the problems. This decision is not one that is made easily. There is a period of time in which NHS England will work with these practices, but if no demonstrable improvement is made we will potentially see the closure of some of these surgeries.”
The new CQC regime introduces a list of standards for GP inspections. In order to meet many of these, the buildings from which services are delivered will need to be significantly enhanced.
Andrew Surgenor, director of healthcare at estate agent, Savills, told the conference: “The majority of surgeries will have physical shortfalls and potential issues around access, room sizes, and facilities.
“The Energy Act 2011 will also have a major impact on the primary care property portfolio as new measures being introduced in 2018 will affect leases, with properties with an energy performance rating below ‘E’ becoming unlettable.
“This could affect a large number of primary care properties. It’s important GPs take notice and don’t ignore. They have three years to solve or mitigate.”