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Independent doctors and independent community healthcare services to be awarded quality ratings for the first time by CQC

3 January 2018
  • Media

The Department of Health has confirmed that it will grant the Care Quality Commission (CQC) the power to rate even more healthcare services, such as those that offer medical advice and prescriptions from GPs online, so that this becomes the default way that the regulator presents the judgements from its inspections.

This confirmation means that people will have clear, accessible and independent information about even more of their healthcare services in England.

CQC already rates NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and adult social care services as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate.

It does this following expert-led inspections, which are based around what matters most to people who use services – whether they are safe, caring, effective, responsive to their needs and well-led.

In September 2017, the Department of Health confirmed that it would broaden CQC’s powers to rate independent healthcare providers. These include cosmetic surgery, substance misuse and termination of pregnancy clinics.

At the same time, the Department of Health launched another public consultation, which proposed to increase CQC’s powers even further so that awarding ratings to the services CQC regulates should become the default way that CQC presents the judgements from its inspections.

This would bring all independent community health services and independent doctors within scope.

Today, the Department of Health has published the outcome to this consultation, which confirms that its proposals have been accepted.

This means that CQC can now develop an approach for how it will rate these additional services. CQC will launch a public consultation on this topic in the New Year.

CQC will continue to inspect these services and publish its findings in the meantime.

Sir David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “CQC’s ratings of health and care services are helping people to make informed choices about their care as well as supporting providers to improve. Never before has the public had such clear information about the quality and safety of their health and care services.

“CQC already inspects and publishes reports for these additional services and so, the ability to award ratings to them will bring increased transparency for the public about the quality and safety of their healthcare.

“We look forward to taking this work forward in the New Year.”


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Last updated:
8 January 2018

Notes to editors

  1. Examples of independent community healthcare include health visitor services, community nursing, sexual health clinics and small inpatient units (such as, an independent community hospital where a patient might go to recover after an operation, as opposed to staying in an acute general hospital).
  2. Examples of ‘independent doctors’ services include providers that offer healthcare (such as medical advice and prescriptions from a GP) online or digitally.
  3. There are currently more than 30 providers in England that registered with CQC and offer primary care online or digitally. CQC has inspected all of these providers and will publish a national report on what it has found about the quality and safety of online and digital healthcare in the New Year.
  4. Other examples of ‘independent doctors’ services include, vaccination clinics, family planning clinics, slimming clinics and private GP surgeries (including walk-in centres) that do not have NHS contracts.
  5. It is a legal requirement for providers to display their ratings on their premises and on their websites so that the public can see their rating quickly and easily. This should be done within 21 days of publication of their inspection report. 
  6. While the Department of Health has confirmed that ratings should be the default way that CQC presents the judgements from its inspections, there will be a few services regulated by CQC, which will be exempt from this. These are:
    • Primary dental care
    • Minor cosmetic surgery
    • National screening programmes
    • Health and Justice services
    • Hyperbaric Chambers
    • Blood and Transplant Services
    • Services licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
    • Independent Pathology Laboratories
    • Independent Podiatry Services
    • Children’s Homes undertaking regulated activities
  7. These services will be exempt because they are considered to be low risk, are regulated by other bodies already and/or because they are limited in number and so, do not offer the same level of choice that other rated services do. However, CQC will continue to inspect and regulate these services as before, take action in response to failings whenever necessary, and publish its findings in full.

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

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

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.