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Tips for passing the CQC inspection

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The CQC inspection is a fact of life for every GP practice. Although the CQC changed the way it inspects practices in 2014 (and the new regime was rolled out between October 2014 and April 2016), the two-week notice period of an inspection is still enough to set your nerves jangling. Every GP closure after an inspection puts every practice on edge. The announcement of another outstanding rating never has the opposite effect. That's human nature, I guess.

We've written several blogs about CQC inspections and how to prepare for them. While the seven CQC inspection questions we suggested you ask yourself (back in September 2014) still stand today as a good basis of preparation for a CQC inspection, this blog updates that advice.

Be prepared for your CQC inspection

The only way to prepare for a CQC inspection is to be prepared!

What this means is to ensure that every day is treated with equal importance. If your systems, processes, procedures and policies are consistently adhered to and updated, then you'll always be ready for the CQC inspection. After all, the CQC wants to see your practice as it is on any given day.

You shouldn't have to change anything that you do in the two-week notice period before the CQC inspection takes place. However, the productive way to use this time is to ensure that:

  • Your practice policies are up to date
  • Premises are up to the required standard
  • Infection control policies and medicines and vaccines procedures are in place
  • Records are up to date and complete

Most importantly, those two weeks are time enough to prepare your staff for the CQC visit. They are bound to be nervous, so take time to prepare the team and individuals as necessary.


What the CQC will ask

Use team meetings and one-to-ones to discuss what the CQC will ask during its visit. It wants to know if your services are:

  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Caring
  • Responsive
  • Well led

In two of our recent blogs, we've discussed what can be learned from the latest inadequate practice ratings and what can be learned from the latest outstanding practice ratings. Take time to review these with your team, and impress upon them the consistencies between each. For example:

  • Inadequate practices are poorly led, while outstanding practices have leadership that is visionary, and focusses on patient care and employee improvement.
  • Inadequate practices lack in patient (and staff) safety procedures.
  • Outstanding practices are found to be innovative and patient-centric, encouraging feedback and participation in setting strategy.
  • Inadequate practices are found to be failing in the upkeep of premises and equipment.
  • Outstanding practices are at the centre of their communities.
  • On the day of the inspection

    Prepare for the day of the inspection by ensuring every member of staff understands its significance. Ideally it will be no more than a routine day (there shouldn't be a need to do anything differently), but the reality is that it will be a very different day to the routine. Here are a few tips for the day itself:

    • Make sure that you have adequate numbers of employees on duty
    • Make sure your employees are dressed smartly
    • Phones should be answered promptly
    • Be prepared to deal with any patient complaints quickly and quietly – the last thing you want is an irate patient shouting the odds in the waiting room
    • Ask patients if they would like to be interviewed by the CQC
    • Provide a lunch that allows an opportunity to showcase the good things you do
    • Prepare posters for public areas that highlight your services and results


    Extra tips for the practice manager

    As a practice manager, it's likely that you'll be interviewed in some depth. Be prepared for questions and to evidence internal audits, policies, risk assessments, medicine and vaccine control procedures, and so on. Prepare a folder of good results and outcomes (for example, staff training, patient group therapy sessions, etc.). Be prepared to spend a large portion of the day of the inspection ‘batting for the CQC' – they may expect you to be the go-between between themselves, staff and patients.

    Finally, be aware that the CQC inspector will most definitely have reviewed your website, patient comments, and comments on the NHS Choices site − you should do the same during the two-week notice period. Forewarned is forearmed.

    One final word of advice, as told to me by a practice manager at one of our GP practice clients:

    "There's no point in getting despondent about something the CQC identifies as an area for improvement. There is always room to improve, even when you've been rated as outstanding overall."

    If you have any tips for preparing for a CQC inspection – perhaps you are a practice manager who has had recent experience with the CQC – feel free to email us to share with the wider GP practice community. Your advice could help others.

    eSupplies Medical is a trading name of Williams Medical Supplies Ltd, a DCC business