Twenty-eight local GP surgeries classed as “potentially high risk” as watchdog raises concern of poor healthcare

Patients in a surgery waiting room. Pic: Adam Tinworth

Patients in a surgery waiting room. Pic: Adam Tinworth

Twenty-eight GP surgeries across ELL boroughs have been labelled as potentially high risk for providing poor healthcare, according to independent healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

One hundred and sixty seven surgeries across the boroughs were assessed in the Intelligent Monitoring System report. They were placed in “priority bandings for inspection” from one to six, with band one being the “highest perceived concern” and band six being the lowest.

These bands were calculated based on risk indicators. There are 38 risk indicators, including high use of antibiotics, poor results for emergency cancer admissions, cervical screening test measures, the ability to get an appointment and dementia diagnosis rates.

However the statistics have been criticised by some, including the Londonwide Local Medical Committee (LMC), who represents GPs across 28 London boroughs.

A senior spokesperson told ELL that the CQC research is “very seriously flawed” as the data used to generate the risk factors may be inaccurate and out of date. The science behind the generation of the risk bands was also brought into question as the criteria used may measure ease of access instead of accurate data and, as such, could mislead patients.

Croydon has 11 practices named in band one. Amongst them was South Norwood Hill Medical Centre that had five “elevated risks” and three “risks”. Among the “elevated risks” were the number of patients over 65 who had not received their flu vaccination and the number of patients with psychosis who had a record of alcohol consumption in the preceding year.

Croydon had 22 practices in the highest band, meaning they were of low concern and priority.

Hackney has six practices in band one, including Stamford Hill Group Practice which had four “elevated risks” and three “risks”. Prevalence of coronary heart disease was listed as an “elevated risk” as was the number of people who did not “always or almost always” get to see or speak to the GP they prefer.

Hackney & City Clinical Commissioning Group included 15 practices in the lowest risk band.

Banding of ELL GP practices. Pic: Olivia Blair

Banding of ELL GP practices. Pic: Olivia Blair

Lewisham came out best out of the four boroughs with only three practices in band one. These were Kingfisher Medical Centre, Wells Park Practice and New Cross Health Centre. Kingfisher Medical Centre’s “elevated risks” included highlighting the number of women having regular cervical cancer screening tests.

Lewisham recorded a significantly higher number of practices, 15 in total, in its “lowest risk” category.

Tower Hamlets has eight GP services listed in band one. Included in this list is Harford Health Centre. Amongst its two “elevated risks” were patients reporting on the last time they saw a nurse and the level of care they received from the particular nurse. Tower Hamlets has nine practices listed in band six.

A spokesperson from NHS Tower Hamlets CCG said:

“NHS Tower Hamlets CCG note the CQC’s new approach, which targets inspections at areas where there appears to be the greatest need. This data is also extremely helpful in building a picture of the things that matter to patients about their local practice – being safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well-led.

“As the CQC itself has made clear, these bandings are in no way ratings or judgements on the quality of care being given by a GP practice. The results show a mixture of performance and standards in comparison to the national averages. We have a number of practices in the lowest rating which is of course a concern.”

“But it is also reassuring to see that a higher percentage of practices in Tower Hamlets are doing well against these indicators. NHS Tower Hamlets CCG will work with our member practices, NHS England and the CQC to bring all practices in Tower Hamlets up to the level of the very best.”

The CQC analysed all 7,276 GP practices across England to decide where the watchdog should focus its inspections over the forthcoming years. The lowest ranked bands will be prioritised in inspections.

Nationally, around eight out of ten practices appeared to be of low concern and within bands three to six, according to the CQC. However, London had more than one in four GP services in the highest risk bands.

The CQC stressed that the indicator findings are not judgements; the surgeries will only be judged after inspection. Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said: “It is important to remember that the data is not a judgement as it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care.”

“The data is a further tool that will help us to decide where to inspect and when.”

Norman Williams, Immediate Past President of the Royal College of Surgeons said: “I am pleased that CQC is being transparent by making data on all aspects of health and care available… It is absolutely right that patients are aware of the quality of the services that are provided so they can make choices about their care.”

The Londonwide LMC spokesperson said that it is important to reassure patients regarding their safety and that the findings “do not reflect the service or attention” people will receive when they visit their GP.

They added that practices offer a “safe, effective, near miraculous service, under increasing pressure on services”.

The spokesperson was critical of the CQC report, saying: “Whilst there is always room for improvement, I’m not sure this is the best way to do so.”

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