The quality of primary care services “remains high” despite mounting pressures, says a new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The report, The state of health care and social care in England, says that despite facing “increased demand”, a shortage of GPs and increasing vacancies, “overall quality in the sector remains high”.
The small proportion (3%) of GP practices that were rated as inadequate after their CQC inspections were often found to have poor safety and leadership ratings as well.
Although the proportion is small it means that more than 800,000 patients were registered with practices rated inadequate for safety, which the CQC says “remains a concern”.
The report says, “This can mean that buildings and equipment are not maintained properly, or that medicines are not stored correctly.”
The CQC also expressed a concern around information sharing, saying the regulators frequently saw “no effective process for recording and sharing national and local information, and guidance about best practice or alerts about patient safety”.
However, the regulators warned that all healthcare providers are working in “a time of unprecedented demand and financial challenge for health and social care, driven by the growing numbers of older people in need of care and support, and those with complex health and care needs”.
It added that the pressure on the NHS, as a result of the crisis in social care, has reached a “tipping point”.
This pressure is leading to an increasing number of practices forming federations and following the multi-specialty community provider (MCP) model.
The CQC said: “We have started to see substantial changes in GP practices, with informal and formal federations being created to achieve economies of scale in care provision and to transform the services they offer.
“We expect to see the first multi-specialty community provider being set up shortly – likely to be the first of many – that will seek to integrate provision of care more closely for population groups.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee deputy chair said that considering the pressure on general practice, the number of good or outstanding practices is “a remarkable level of achievement”.
He added: “Those practices that are judged as needing improvement can fall into this category for a number of reasons and most will have already taken steps to make the necessary improvements suggested by CQC.
“No practice that delivers care in an unfit manner would be allowed to remain open. Instead of demonising those practices that are struggling, we do need to ensure that every local GP service is given enough resources and staff so it can meet public demand.”