The Care Quality Commission (CQC), under the auspices of the Health and Social Care Act 2008, seeks to provide assurance that health and adult social care services meet minimum essential standards of safety and quality. It does this through the registration of all providers of regulated activities, who must comply with specific requirements as to the care and welfare of patients.
Where a registered provider fails to meet the registration requirements, the CQC has a range of enforcement powers to seek to bring about improvements, ranging from the issue of a warning notice or imposition of a condition on a provider’s registration through to cancellation of registration or the bringing of a criminal prosecution.
When the department canvassed views during the development of the “new” registration system back in 2008/9, consultees expressed overwhelming support for the extension of registration to include providers of NHS primary care medical services. Accordingly, the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2010 set out a staged approach for the CQC to bring all health and social care providers within its regulatory framework.
Since April 2010 the CQC has registered around 20,000 health and adult social care providers. From April 2012 a further 9,000 or so providers of NHS primary medical services (eg, GP practices, out of hours doctors and some NHS walk-in centres) were due to enter the new system.
As a result of its six-week consultation (ending 29 July 2011) however, the department has decided that the registration of primary service providers will now be implemented in two phases:
- On 1 April 2012, providers of NHS primary medical services out of hours to patients that are not registered with them; and
- On 1 April 2013, all other providers of NHS primary medical services.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, many respondents expressed concern that GP practices are already subject to extensive regulation and scrutiny and that much of the evidence required for CQC registration is also required for other checks to which practices and/or individual practitioners are subject eg, GMC registration, the proposed plans for revalidation due to commence in 2012, accreditation as a training practice and established quality frameworks such as Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). Moreover, the workload for providers of primary care services is likely to be hefty over the coming few years with the changes in commissioning and the reconfiguration of the NHS.
The department will therefore now proceed to introduce to Parliament regulations that will delay the registration of the vast majority of providers of NHS primary medical services until 1 April 2013.