Monthly column for providers and professionals working in primary medical and dental services from Dr Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care

This month I’m talking about two publications impacting on primary medical services and wishing a happy retirement to a CQC colleague.

The safer management of controlled drugs

We are responsible for making sure that health and social care providers, and other regulators, maintain a safe environment for managing controlled drugs in England.

In our annual update for 2018 we report on:

  • the increase in opioid prescribing across the UK
  • measures put in place following the Gosport Independent Panel report
  • our continuing concerns regarding lower schedule controlled drugs
  • the introduction of legislation for cannabis based medicinal products.

Our update shares the key issues raised by NHS England controlled drug accountable officers and their unaccounted-for losses of controlled drugs by NHS England area. We also give examples of issues raised and followed up through the local area networks.

For those working in primary care and with controlled drugs, the report provides data on overall prescribing trends in 2018 and makes for interesting reading.

The report makes five recommendations to further strengthen the arrangements for the safe

management and use of controlled drugs. This year, these focus on the importance of having oversight of the use of controlled drugs and the need to speak up where there are concerns.

You can read the full report on our website.

Defence Medical Services

One area within my remit as Chief Inspector is our inspections of Defence Medical Services (DMS), and the medical care provided for members of the HM Armed Forces. Everyone in our society, including armed forces personnel and their families, deserve high-quality, accessible care.

DMS medical facilities are not required to register with CQC, and consequently we have no powers of enforcement. However, we were commissioned CQC to undertake a comprehensive programme of inspections as a way of benchmarking the services provided by the DMS to Armed Forces personnel against those provided for NHS patients.

In view of this, the Surgeon General invited CQC to inspect health care and medical operational capabilities, and we started a programme of inspections in 2017/18. You can read more about our work in this area on our website.

The aim of our inspections is to highlight notable practice and problems and to make sure that military health services address these for the benefit of both patients and the staff working in them.

In 2018/19, CQC carried out 34 first comprehensive inspections comprising:

  • 25 medical centres (including primary care rehabilitation facilities (PCRFs))
  • 3 dental centres
  • 4 regional rehabilitation units (RRUs)
  • 2 military departments of community mental health (DCMH).

We also carried out 19 follow-up inspections to ensure that services had resolved the concerns that we found on initial inspections.

You can read about our findings from our second year of inspections in our annual report.

Wishing a happy retirement

After six and a half years at CQC, Professor Nigel Sparrow, our Senior National GP Advisor and Responsible Officer has decided to retire at the end of September.

Nigel has been a valued member of the CQC’s Primary Medical Services team and was integral to introducing regulation into general practice, and subsequently developing and improving our inspection frameworks. I know that Nigel’s ‘mythbusters’ are a regular read for practices across the country and a source of comfort for many — tackling common myths around CQC inspections and helping to translate Regulations into better care in the real world.

Nigel has developed and maintained strong relationships with key external stakeholders and there is no doubt that he has significantly contributed to better quality, safer care for people in England.

I would like to thank Nigel for his commitment, dedication and support and wish him a very happy retirement.

Have a great month everyone.


We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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