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A major audit completed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that one in seven GP surgeries are failing to meet basic safety standards.
The comprehensive review of 7,365 GP practices in England ranked 90% as Good or Outstanding, however, the practices were also given a separate score for safety, which was in most instances lower than the overall rating, with only 1% of practices receiving an outstanding classification.
Most alarmingly, 15% of practices were rated as requiring improvement or inadequate in terms of patient safety. To put this into perspective, this means approximately 1,100 practices across the country, covering an estimated 8.5 million patients.
The audit also revealed stark differences in rating by geographical location, with practices in London receiving the most inadequate or requires improvement ratings, followed by the West Midlands and the South East. In contrast, practices in the North East received the highest ratings of any region within England.
Amongst the issues that contributed to these ratings, failings included keeping out of date medicine and backlogs of test results, including cancer referrals, which had in some instances been left for weeks.
The latest findings from the CQC raise concerns over the standard of care that some practices are providing. This can have a devastating impact on the overall patient outcome and may therefore lead to patients pursuing a GP negligence claim, this may include instances such as failure to refer to a specialist, or delayed referrals which can lead to increased suffering for the patient.
The latest audit comes at a time where some GP practices are having to close their lists to new patients, with official figures showing that over 550 surgeries have closed completely since 2012 and the average GP patient list size has increased by 18% in a decade.
On commenting on the results, Dr Richard Vautrey of the British Medical Assocation (BMA) commented:
“These positive results are undoubtedly down to the hard work of GPs and practice staff, but many are in an environment where they are increasingly struggling to deliver effective care to their local communities. A recent survey found the majority of GPs in England are considering temporarily closing their practice list to new patients because of the impact of soaring demand, stagnating budgets and widespread staff shortages.”
The comprehensive nature of the audit enable conclusions to be drawn that the majority of GP practices are providing good care and achieving an overall good level of patient safety. However, the clear disparity of care for some patients may raise concerns about the potential for medical negligence to arise – either through delayed diagnosis of key medical conditions, delayed referrals or even prescribing incorrect medicines. As such, these practices may face themselves subject to mounting medical negligence claims from such patients.