Exploring issues faced by general practice services led by GPs from an ethnic minority background

In this blog Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care highlights some of the challenges facing primary care and some specific work we are doing to respond to concerns we’ve heard on the impact of regulation

Throughout the pandemic I’ve seen how well primary care has been adapting how it delivers services, ensuring people have continued to be able to access care under significant pressure, using innovative new methods to maintain positive experiences for patients, and delivering an incredibly successful vaccination programme. This has needed hard work from everyone who works in the sector and continues to do so. I’d like to thank all of you for this work.

We have also worked to adapt how we regulate during this period and I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our latest update on our regulatory approach.

The pandemic has demonstrated how vital primary care is to systems being able to deliver good quality health and social care. The pandemic has also brought into focus some of the long-standing pressures and challenges the sector is facing. These challenges aren’t always evenly distributed. Some providers, for many reasons, may face more challenges than others or have access to different levels of support.

The solutions to these challenges aren’t likely to be easy but I’m committed to CQC working in partnership with others to understand how they can be addressed and what good quality primary care looks like in increasingly integrated health and social care systems.

I see that part of our role in this will be recognising the impact of regulation, both positive in terms of driving improvement and ensuring people receive safe and good quality care but also where our regulatory approach may need to change.

To do this we will continue to value feedback, be open to challenge and we will start to implement our new strategy in partnership with people who use services, their families and wider communities, people who provide care and other stakeholders to ensure that our regulatory approach is right for the future and responsive to changes in health and social care.

Ensuring equality is at the heart of our approach

One of the challenges my team and I have been reflecting on, is concerns that practices led by GPs from an ethnic minority background receive poorer CQC ratings or regulatory outcomes. I and CQC as a whole are absolutely committed to equality. Our strategy and recently launched equality objectives place this at the heart of our work, so I want to make sure we respond to this concern in the right way.

Over the next few months, we will be carrying out work to understand this issue and the impact of our current regulatory approach. This will include looking at evidence we and other organisations hold, previous research and listening to the experiences of GPs from an ethnic minority background, including through surveys and focus groups. We will also be examining our own diversity and methodology through an equality lens.

We will also be looking at other factors that may have an impact, including deprivation, the demographics of a local area and how the wider health and social care system works in partnership. This work will help us understand what impacts and influences regulatory outcomes.

I am very grateful that this work is being supported by an Expert Advisory Group that is made up of organisations that represent GPs from an ethnic minority background, those working in areas with significant challenges and others. This group is providing important challenge, guidance and advice and will help us understand and interpret the project’s results. Involving the members of this group is vital in making sure we get this right.

The findings of this work will directly feed into the implementation of our new strategy and will help us shape what the regulatory approach for primary care looks like in the future.

I also know that equality in primary care isn’t just an issue for CQC. It’s something that is important to many of our system partners and it’s important for us all to work together on to address. This is why I’m particularly pleased that many of these partners have come together with CQC to understand how we can work together across the system, address issues of inequalities faced by GPs from an ethnic minority background and better support practices facing wider challenges. This group is a sub group of the Primary Care Quality Board and is providing valuable opportunities for joint working to address this important issue.

For the latest on the project and opportunities to share your views you can check our digital engagement platform CitizenLab. As the work progresses I’ll also share updates through this blog and if you’d like more information you can contact the team on GPInequalities@cqc.org.uk. I want to thank everyone who’s been involved with this work and has already shared their experiences with CQC, I hope that by working together on this project we can ensure a better outcome for people who receive care and people who deliver it.

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