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When we will inspect GP practices

  • Organisations we regulate

Frequency of inspections

We will use your previous rating to determine when to inspect your service. The usual maximum intervals for re-inspecting services depend on your rating as follows:

Previous overall rating Maximum interval between inspection
Inadequate Six months
Requires improvement 12 months
Good or outstanding Five years

If a practice has an overall rating of requires improvement and a key question or population group is rated as inadequate, we will re-inspect within six months to check that it has made sufficient progress (see special measures). These maximum intervals reflect the commitment we made in CQC’s strategy, and in response to NHS England’s General Practice Forward View, to deliver an intelligence-driven approach to regulation. This is proportionate to the overall high quality of services we have found among NHS GP practices.

Every year, we will inspect a proportion of providers rated as good or outstanding. This is to make sure that they are all inspected at least once every five years. We may also inspect any service at any time, irrespective of rating, for example when:

  • our monitoring information indicates a potential significant improvement or deterioration in the quality of care
  • a provider is part of a larger or complex provider, and we have decided to carry out a coordinated inspection alongside our hospital and adult social care inspectors
  • we are undertaking a review of care services in a local area

Announcing inspections

Inspections are usually announced. We feel that this is the most appropriate way to make sure our inspections do not disrupt the care you provide.

When we announce inspections, we will usually give two weeks’ notice to individual GP practices. The inspector will telephone your practice to announce the inspection and send a letter to confirm the date.

Throughout the inspection process, the lead inspector will support and communicate with you by letter, email and telephone to help you to prepare for the day and know what to expect.

Unannounced inspections

We may also carry out an unannounced inspection, for example if we are responding to a particular issue or concern. This may be something identified at a previous inspection that we are following up, or new information.

At the start of these visits, the inspection team will meet with your practice’s senior partner or senior manager on duty at the time and will feed back at the end of the inspection if there are any immediate concerns.

Pre-inspection provider information request

If your practice has an overall rating of requires improvement or inadequate, we will ask you for information before we inspect. This will help us to prepare our inspection and to understand more about the care and the service you provide.

The information we will request is likely to include, for example:

  • information about your patient population
  • details of your staff, including numbers of staff by role and hours worked
  • details of significant events and serious incidents reported, including the actions you have taken
  • evidence and examples of how you have provided care for the six population groups we inspect
  • evidence to show how you have monitored the quality of treatment and services, including details of completed clinical audit cycles with evidence of actions taken as a result and outcomes achieved
  • evidence of how you have addressed the findings from your patient surveys
  • a summary of complaints you have received, with details of actions you have taken and any improvements made
  • policies, procedures and other documentation

This list is not exhaustive and we may ask for further information depending on the information available to us.

You will have five working days to respond to our request. We will tell you what information to send, where to send it and who to contact if you have any questions.

For practices with an overall rating of good or outstanding, we will not make a pre-inspection information request. Instead, we will set up a telephone call to carry out a provider information collection each year. This is to ask about any changes at the practice since your last inspection or annual regulatory review.

Last updated:
28 April 2021