Pangbourne Medical Practice was inspected by the CQC in November 2014 and following this the Practice complained to the CQC about the inspection; our principal concerns are summarised below.
• The practice was unfairly criticised by the CQC using poorly collected and uncorroborated information and it was extremely time consuming correcting all the inaccuracies in the initial report.
• The choice of inspectors as a hospital pharmacist was used to look at medicine management not a community pharmacist or a GP.
• None of the excellent work done in the practice was commented on in the report.
• We received wholly misleading feedback at the end of the inspection day from the inspection team.
• The GP inspector did not see our inaccurate draft report.
• There were unacceptable delays in communicating with us at all times including the subsequent handling of our complaint.
The CQC provided a generic complaint response which did not address the issues that we had raised with them so we then took our complaint to the local MP, Alok Sharma, who referred the complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO).
We requested that the CQC should respond to our concerns about the inspection fully, acknowledge and apologise for the errors that they had made and to improve its inspection and complaint handling processes.
The PHSO has looked carefully at our complaint and have upheld all of our concerns except the CQCs choice of pharmacist. They recognised that the experience had been very upsetting for the practice. The PHSO report said that although the CQC had already acknowledged some errors and made some improvements there was more that they could do to put things right for us and to reassure us that the CQC have learnt from our difficult experience with them.
The PHSO recommend that, as a result of the poor service from the CQC that they identified in their report, the CQC must take the following actions:
1. The CQC must write to the Practice, acknowledging the errors identified already during our meeting with them and apologise for them.
2. Respond to our outstanding concerns which had not received a response.
3. Clearly explain in writing what improvements had been made to the inspection process as a result of learning from our inspection.
The CQC have now written to the practice and admitted that they did not always get things right and that our complaint has allowed them to reflect on how they could do things better. They acknowledge that errors were made during our inspection process and that this was regrettable.
They also acknowledged our concerns about the general levels of accuracy throughout the inspection and quality assurance processes and apologise for failing to follow their own guidance and policies and recognised that this was unacceptable.
They also said they were sorry that we had to take “such extreme intervention” of applying to the PHSO to have our issues addressed thoroughly and properly.
The CQC say they have now learnt important lessons in how to handle complaints with accuracy, transparency and timeliness and have streamlined their complaints procedure to make it a clearer and more transparent process.
General practice is acknowledged to be going through a very difficult time at present with poor funding and excessive work load and the time wasted responding to the ill-informed judgements on practices by the CQC is putting a further intolerable burden on GPs. Unfortunately the poor quality of the inspection and subsequent reporting process for our practice has been matched by the inept and dismissive way in which our complaints were initially handled.
We spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the CQC inspection and then dealing with the aftermath of the inspection; this has affected all the partners and staff at the practice and had a very damaging impact on morale and work load. We were inspected in November 2014 and it has taken until October 2016 for the CQC to respond adequately to our concerns.
We are fortunate to have an effective, robust, supportive team who have worked together to resist the harmful effect that the CQC could have had on the practice. We have survived; other practices have not.