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 wanted to start this blog with a thank you to everyone working in primary care services, who I know have been working extremely hard during a period of intense pressure and challenge, continuing to deliver care to people who need it.

The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged the ability of providers to continue to offer services, but I’ve been impressed by the considerable efforts shown by the people who work in the sector, innovating and changing how they work so they are able to continue delivering care.

The pandemic has also impacted how CQC works, but as the regulator our core purpose remains the same, to ensure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high quality care.

But we recognise this needs to be delivered differently during this period, including delivering a role supporting providers so they are able to continue to deliver services. In this spirit, at the start of the pandemic we made the decision to pause our routine inspection activity. This was the right thing to do, both to support providers who were under increased pressure and also to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Emergency Support Framework

So we are able to continue delivering our purpose during this period and support the sector where it’s needed, it’s important for us to have the information we need to understand the challenges you are facing.

Part of how we’ll do this is through a new tool called the Emergency Support Framework, that will provide a structured framework for regular conversations our inspectors will be having with you, covering:

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

The idea is for these conversations to be open and honest about the challenges you are facing and will enable us to support you to address these.

We are rolling out the Emergency Support Framework sector by sector to all health and social care services we regulate, and it will start to be used with General Practice from the 18th May, you can find more about what this will look like for you on our website.

The Framework isn’t a replacement for our paused inspection activity but will give us intelligence to help us monitor risk, identify where providers may need extra support to respond to emerging issues, and ensure they are delivering safe care which protects people’s human rights. And it underpins our regulatory approach during the Coronavirus pandemic that involves:

  • Using and sharing information to target support where it’s needed most. This will be from new and existing sources, including increasing our efforts to encourage feedback from the public and care staff, as well as whistleblowers. This information will help us to make informed decisions and support the wider health and social care system to respond to issues at local, regional and national levels.
  • Having open and honest conversations with providers, health and care staff, partners and wider stakeholders, using this information so we can support them to resolve issues and work through tough decisions to help them keep people and the system safe.
  • Taking action to keep people safe and to protect people’s human rights by using our powers to take action against those responsible where we find unsafe or poor care
  • Capturing and sharing what we do and how we do it so we are transparent about the action we have taken; and to inform future recovery and learning.

We also recognise how important it is that the whole system works together to support the response to the Coronavirus pandemic. So during this period we are continuing to work in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England/Improvement to ensure our approach is aligned with work they are doing and that we share key trends and themes from the intelligence we collect to better support the system response.

This approach will be flexible, and we will adapt it and the Framework based on your feedback and as the situation changes. You can share your feedback through our digital engagement platform. And we will be in touch with more information as our approach changes and as the Emergency Support Framework begins to be used in other sectors.

Thank you again for all the work you are doing and keep safe.

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