A GP has accused a government health watchdog of tarnishing his practice’s reputation after it was branded as a “high risk”.
Dr John Flather, a senior partner at Hadleigh Boxford Group Practice, has criticised the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after it condemned Hadleigh Health Centre under its new rating system.
The practice was deemed as a “high risk” – the worst of six categories – following a recent inspection.
But Dr Flather said the process used to create the ratings was inadequate, while much of the data used was incorrect.
“We are very disappointed – it’s a bit of a slur on our character,” he said. “We have had a number of patients call up who have been surprised and upset, as have our staff.”
Data for the rating system came from a national database of statistics referring to 38 indicators, including how easy it was to get appointments and the diagnosis of dementia.
A report carried out by the BBC found serious errors in the data – something Dr Flather maintains his surgery has been a victim of.
“They have come up with a figure that says we gave flu jabs to 24 per cent of our patients,” he said. “It was actually 96 per cent. That’s a huge disparity.”
Instead, he suggests that the CQC should have asked the surgeries involved to check the data for themselves to look for inaccuracies, avoiding the embarrassment of having what he feels is an unfair rating posted on a national website.
“Obviously it’s a priority to have quality of service and we don’t think anyone wants to hide,” he said.
“If there is an inadequate service, it needs to be seen and sorted, but getting tarnished and then put on a national website [without the data being checked] is a bit premature.
“There needs to be more clarity on the quality of the process beforehand.”
The surgery has submitted an official complaint to the CQC, but has yet to receive a response.
The CQC has admitted there have been some inaccuracies with the data and announced that around 60 practices will be lifted out of the highest risk category. The Hadleigh surgery has not yet been told if it will be one of those reclassified.
Overall, the CQC says 519 practices will move bands, with most of these being between the lowest risk ratings.
Officials at the CQC have said the register was set up to help target inspections, and did not necessarily indicate poor GP surgery performance.
The British Medical Association has claimed, however, that mistakes by the CQC risked “causing serious harm” to the reputation of good surgeries.
Its GP committee chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “Admission by the CQC that it is having to recalculate all of its pre-inspection data highlights the concerns that this risk rating system is not fit for purpose.
“We now know that, due to errors in the CQC’s methodology, 60 practices have been unfairly branded as being at risk, potentially doing serious harm to their reputation.
“We warned at the time that simplistic targets would fail to take into account the enormous pressures GP practices are facing.
“These failings have the potential to seriously undermine the trust in the system and patients’ confidence in their GP.”