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Regulation needs to evolve as general practices do, says CQC chief inspector

The way the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates GP practices needs to evolve as practices do, its chief inspector has said.

Professor Steve Field, speaking for the final time at a Best Practice conference before he steps down from his role as chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, noted that general practice is now in ‘a very good place’. Currently, 91% of GP practices are rated as ‘good’ while just 1% are judged as ‘inadequate’.

As GP practices begin to merge together and create new, larger provider organisations, ‘so CQC has to change how it regulates across those large areas of practice,’ he said.

‘How the CQC regulates and monitors large groups [with hundreds of thousands of patients across different parts of England] will necessarily be different to single-handed practices. But standards of care provided to patients needs to remain the same. So we are working with groups that are working at that scale – there are about 350 across England – [on this].’

The CQC is also helping online medical services providers to raise their standards, and again regulations on this need to evolve, Professor Field said.

More online providers now meet basic standards for safety and they are also better at verifying the patient is who they say they are, he noted.

‘The problem we’ve got is we only look after providers based in England providing care for patients who are in England. As you will have seen in the Panorama programme recently unfortunately some providers have moved offshore and some try to provide services to patients outside England and it’s all got a little bit messy. But regulation needs to change and we are determined that within our offer we will make sure patients are safe in England.’