The process of registering with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) begins for general practice in England, in July 2012.
While practices may feel anxious at the prospect, Victoria Howes, GP registration design team leader at the CQC, wants to reassure GPs that the work needed in July is straightforward as it is little more than setting up a CQC account.
Nevertheless, some preparation is required and Ms Howes says that many GP partners are not yet up to speed.
‘Practice managers seem to be keyed in to lots of it but I’m not sure that GP partners are quite as clued up. They might want to get clued up, given they will be accountable.’
So what do practices need to do?
In July each practice will receive a letter from the CQC containing a code. This code, when entered on the CQC website, will upload the practice details held by the regulator and the process of setting up an account can start. This involves basic checks such as ensuring the CQC has the right name for the practice and the correct address.
Practices will need to indicate their provider status: partnership, individual or organisation. A single-handed GP would register as an individual and an organisation would be a limited company or charity, explains Ms Howes. The CQC expects most practices to register as partnerships.
In July, practices will also have to tell the CQC about their regulated activities. There are 15 set out in the legislation with strict definitions that may not be immediately apparent to GPs. For example, family planning services are a regulated activity but only relate to the insertion or removal of an intrauterine contraceptive. So, if a practice does not offer this specific service, it need not apply for that regulated activity.
Practices are advised to think about all the services they provide, including non-NHS, to ensure everything is covered and cross-referenced with the GP guide An overview of registration with CQC that every practice in England should have received in February 2012.
In setting up their account, practices will be asked to identify the person who will be taking a lead on the CQC registration. This individual will take legal responsibility and sign off the full application later in the year.
|SETTING UP YOUR ONLINE REGISTRATION APPLICATION ACCOUNT|
Practices will be expected to do this in July 2012
You will need:
Ms Howes says: ‘This should really be a partner, if the practice is registering as a partnership. Although all partners are equally accountable, the legally responsible person is the only one who can press the submit button when the time comes.’
However, the CQC lead can share the work with others. The practice can create accounts for other people – such as the practice manager - to help fill in the form, each with their own login and password. While there is no limit to how many people have accounts, Ms Howes says it would be unusual to have more than a couple of people listed.
Be aware of deadline
Practices also need to select a deadline by which to submit their completed application. There are four windows for submission, each lasting 28 days, between September and December this year.
There are a limited number of slots in each window to help CQC manage the flow of applications. So practices are advised to log in early and choose their deadline.
‘It’s first come, first served,’ says Ms Howes. ‘But not everyone is necessarily going to want the December window. We’ve been testing the form with GPs and practice managers and some have said they prefer to get it in as early as possible so that it’s done, while others want to take as long as they can.’
But Debbie Hickey, head of compliance at dbg, a company offering support packages to assist with CQC registration, says that many practices seem ill-prepared at present. This suggests that the later deadlines will be the most popular.
‘I went to a LMC conference and, of the 100 or so GPs there, not one had done anything about CQC registration yet. A lot of practices are burying their heads in the sand,’ she says.
She urges practices to start working towards registration now to make the process less stressful.
Graham Knight, business development manager, at support company Res Consortium estimates that July’s enrolment process should take most practices about two hours.
‘It depends on your IT literacy but it’s not laborious. It will be the first time people have seen it though, and it can take a bit of time to get used to something new and work out how to navigate it,’ he says.
Mr Knight advises practices to take a look at the online registering process to familiarise themselves with it before they actually start to input information.
‘That way, you can see what’s required and you can go away, gather the information and have the discussions,’ he says.