Care Quality Commission given new powers to rate a range of independent healthcare providers
Healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is to be given the power to give ratings to a much wider range of non-NHS-run providers of healthcare services across England, including online GPs and pharmacies.
Independent abortion clinics, refractive eye surgeons, substance-misuse services, and some types of cosmetic surgery providers will also be given ratings under the new system, as will independent ambulance operators and dialysis services.
CQC already has a remit to conduct inspections of these services and publish its findings but, until now, its ratings have only been applied to hospitals, physical GPs, and adult social-care services – in both the NHS and the commercial sector, in all three cases.
NHS Digital expressed its approval of the expansion of CQC’s rating powers, claiming that, with a growing range of healthcare applications and online providers offering medical services to the public, an independent rating scheme for digital doctors will help keep patients safe.
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“We welcome the introduction of the CQC’s new rating scheme for digital GP tools, which supports the NHS-wide aim to provide reassurance and trusted advice around the growing number of digital healthcare tools available,” said Hazel Jones, programme director for apps and wearables at NHS Digital. “This rating scheme will complement the NHS apps library, which aims to provide trusted digital tools for patients and the public to manage and improve their health.”
The commission’s inspections judge healthcare providers against five criteria, assessing whether they are safe, caring, effective, responsive to patient needs, and well-led. Based on these factors, hospitals, GPs, and adult-social-care providers are given one of four grades: Outstanding; Good; Requires Improvement; and Inadequate.
The CQC has not finalised how it will go about rating the additional independent healthcare services. A consultation on the matter is due to be launched shortly.
CQC chief executive Sir David Behan said that the new powers granted to his organisation would allow people to make more educated choices about their healthcare providers.
“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,” he said. “Never before has the public had such clear information about the quality and safety of their health and care services.”
Behan added: “CQC already inspects and publishes reports for these additional services, so the ability to award ratings to them will bring increased transparency for the public about the quality and safety of their healthcare.”