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

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I believe that ensuring people receive the best care possible is the driving motivation of all of us working in the health & social care system. So I’m particularly pleased that despite the significant challenges general practice face, we consistently rate a large majority of services as either good or outstanding. Achieving these ratings isn’t an easy task and is testament to the hard work, professionalism and excellence of everyone working in general practice.

This is a great picture, but I’m keen that because there are growing challenges across health & social care, the CQC works with the whole sector to support providers to sustain good quality care and where possible, improve.

In this month’s blog I’ll talk about some of the ways we can do this and some of the common themes we’ve found from providers that are delivering outstanding care.

Supporting improvement

In order to help providers identify areas they could improve, we need to have a good understanding of how individual services work, the circumstances they operate in and specific challenges they face. Our relationship management and information collection work are key to this. When we see this work particularly well it’s when inspectors and providers have built a relationship where they feel able to have open and honest conversations with each other and where challenge can be given in a constructive way. We’re continuing to evaluate the way we collect information from providers and understand more about what good interactions between inspectors and providers look like so we can improve this area of our work.

A common starting point for providers when trying to understand what we look for in good or outstanding care is the guidance we produce. It’s important that our guidance is clear, gives providers the information they need to understand the regulations and how to meet them, and is useful for providers. We currently produce guidance for the different sectors we regulate and compliment these with our range of mythbusters that focus on best practice. We are also currently undertaking work to look at how we improve the accessibility and usability of all the guidance we produce.

Often the best way to understand how you can improve is by learning from your peers, this is why that alongside our guidance we also publish case studies and examples of outstanding practice.

Finally, it’s important for us to continue work collaboratively across the system with providers and partners like RCGP and BMA, to influence the national conversations on integration, system working, workforce development and the future of PCNs. Getting these things right will play a big role in providing the right environment for providers to continue to deliver good care and to improve.

Themes of outstanding care

Through our programme of inspections we’ve identified several themes that keep coming up in providers delivering outstanding care. I wanted to share the key ones below and you can read more on our website.

Clear and strong leadership, especially where it can provide clarity on the roles and responsibilities of practice staff, the desired objectives and outcomes of the service and how they will be achieved. We often saw the empowering of practice managers as key to this.

Good workforce planning and ensuring a practice has the right staff mix for the services it is delivering and the population it serves. Coupled with ensuring staff have access to the right support and training they need to deliver their roles well.

Presence of an open and learning culture. Where people feel able to speak up and the practice looks externally for learning around best practice.

Good engagement with people who use the practice and the wider community. Looking to understand the needs of the population, collect and learn from feedback, and work with wider voluntary sector organisations to offer patients more holistic support.

You can hear more on what we’ve seen as they key themes of outstanding services by listening to our recent podcast on outstanding general practice.

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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