The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has agreed to review recommendations made by a High Court judge regarding its inspection process.
It had been indicated by the High Court that the complaints process should be made fairer for GP practices, with the judge ruling over the case suggesting that this could reduce litigation costs for the NHS.
The CQC was told to appoint an independent expert to review GP practices’ requests for factual corrections before publishing their inspection report, rather than leaving it solely up to the lead inspector.
High Court judge Mrs Justice Andrews commented in her ruling that there was “little point in giving someone an opportunity to make factual corrections, if there is no procedural mechanism for safeguarding against an unfair refusal to make them”.
Andrews rejected the position of the Care Quality Commission, which was that there should be no mechanism for complaining against decisions taking during the 10-day window for factual corrections.
Justice Andrews was ruling on a judicial review claim brought by private APMS provider SSP Health.
The organisation had suffered three practices being placed in special measures in 2015, following a CQC inspection which considered their services to be inadequate.
But Andrews considered the burden of expectation on the inspected party to bring a legal claim into court as being disproportionate.
“It is well established that judicial review should be a course of last resort. Moreover, this court is generally an inappropriate place to resolve disputed issues of fact. Legal proceedings are time-consuming and costly for all concerned. Both the regulator and the regulated body will be subject to financial, as well as time, constraints.”
Andrew also believes that clinical commissioning groups should benefit from an internal independent process, having stated that she was convinced that the lead inspector of the Care Quality Commission should be the sole arbiter of whether changes should be made to a report.
“An independent person within the CQC ought to be able to tell fairly swiftly whether there is or is not a legitimate grievance about the lead inspector’s failure to correct the report. Such a person should be much better placed to resolve that grievance than the court is.”
Responding to the court verdict, a spokesperson on behalf of the Care Quality Commission indicated that they would be reviewing their processes.
“As part of CQC’s strategy for the future regulation of general practice, we are looking at all aspects of our methodology to determine what needs to be improved.”
Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, indicated that the attitude of the CQC had been less than desirable.
“This High Court judgement only goes to provide further proof of what so many people who have had any dealings with CQC have been saying for a very long time- the organisation needs to take a long hard look at its own processes and procedures before it continues to pass judgments on others. It’s a huge and completely unnecessary burden on general practice and as an immediate step all its GP inspections and ratings should be suspended until it has shown in can get its own house in order.”