Regular column for providers and professionals working in primary care from Dr Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services

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I wrote my last blog on the 14th May to update primary care and dental providers on the work we’ve been doing to adapt our regulatory approach during the Coranavirus pandemic, to ensure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high quality care and as a part of that, support providers so they are able to continue to deliver services.

One of the ways we are doing this is through a new tool called the Emergency Support Framework (ESF), and I wanted to use this blog to talk more about where we are using this tool and how it can support providers.

But first I wanted to thank everyone working in primary care services, who are continuing to work in challenging circumstances to deliver care to people who need it, often in new and innovative ways.

Emergency Support Framework (ESF)

We are currently using the ESF with:

And will be using it with dental services from the 15th June.

There is detailed guidance on the ESF, it’s purpose and how it works on our website. But at it’s heart it provides a structured framework for regular conversations our inspectors will be having with some services, covering:

  • Safe care and treatment
  • Staffing arrangements
  • Protection from abuse
  • Assurance processes, monitoring, and risk management

Because we want this approach to be proportionate and not add unnecessary burden on providers, we won’t be conducting ESF conversations with every service but instead will assess the need for these based on risk indicators for each sector, these are published on our website.

We will make these assessments using information about your service, collected from both existing and new sources. And our inspectors will use their additional knowledge and experience of your service to prioritise where and when we undertake an ESF conversation. But if you’re not prioritised for an ESF conversation your local inspection team is still available to support you if you need it and I’d encourage you to contact them if you would like any advice or to find out what support we could offer.

I want to emphasise that ESF conversations are not an inspection and the outcome will not be a regulatory judgement or rating, and to minimise burden there is no expectation that providers will need to undertake work to prepare for an ESF conversation. They are designed to be supportive conversations by helping us understand the specific stresses and challenges a provider is facing, and where a provider may be using innovative ways to manage.

Having an understanding of these things will mean we are able to provide targeted local advice and guidance, signpost to other relevant sources of support, information, & advice and share examples from other services of good practice and innovative ways of how they are managing. An example of this is work we’ve been involved in to coordinate testing appointments for staff and escalating supply issues around PPE.

We will be using the information we gather through ESF conversations through regular sharing of key trends and issues with the Department of Health & Social Care, using our independent voice to highlight key trends through regular publications and where appropriate escalating through NHSE/I incident centres.

Helping us shape our approach

As we continue to develop our regulatory approach during the pandemic it’s very important to me that we are able to hear your views on how regulation should be delivered during this period and your feedback on how we’ve responded, including the your experience of the ESF.

One of the ways you can do this is through our digital engagement platform, CitizenLab. There are a number of different areas we’re asking for your feedback on right now. It’s quick and easy to sign up and add your feedback. There will be more opportunities added in the coming weeks so please keep checking back.

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