Our teams from our Family Practice Group and Communitas Clinics were pleased to meet recently with Care Quality Commission (CQC*) Chief Executive Ian Trenholm and Inspector Elspeth Buchanan. Usually when the CQC visits it’s for an inspection, but on this occasion, Ian and Elspeth came to find out about our experiences during the pandemic, the issues we faced and how things stand now.
During the visit, we highlighted some of the challenges faced, from needing to ensure staff and patient safety to remote working, infection control guidance, staff sickness and recruitment.
Ian and Elspeth were interested to hear about the way we responded to these challenges both in the Family Practice Group and Community Clinics. These included implementing phone and video consultations whilst managing to provide face to face when possible, with reference to our innovative ENT screens, use of technology such as MS Teams, VOIP phone systems and laptops as well as the way we worked to improve coordination with services in the community. We highlighted positive outcomes too, from clearing backlogs of patients waiting for dermatology and ENT appointments to getting involved in the PCN vaccination programme.
We also discussed ongoing considerations as the country moves into a ‘living with Covid’ scenario. These include managing staff sickness, isolation, continued challenges of recruitment and how we meet patient expectations going forward, plus assisting local Trusts with their Covid recovery programmes. We also can’t ignore the possible resurgence of Covid and the need to be prepared.
Integrated Care Systems
Ian and Elspeth were keen to hear our thoughts on the new NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICS) now being established in England. In a nutshell, we talked about points such as establishing a single point of access for secondary care referrals, sharing patient tracking lists (PTL), investment in the ICS Team environments, transparent reporting, shared learning and reviews of clinical pathways.
Finally, it was also useful to have the chance to deliberate the CQC’s new direction of travel especially with regard to changes to the way inspections are carried out. This is likely to be an ongoing rating model rather than the current large-scale site inspection held every couple of years or so.
The proposed change was well received by our teams – especially as it is likely to encourage the sharing of best practice between different providers.
All in all this was a positive, informative and helpful visit for all involved. We are grateful for this opportunity to share our experiences during the pandemic, how we responded (and continue to respond) and to touch on what the future may bring.
*The CQC is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.