Experts At The Organisation Said Standards Must Meet Basic Guideline Levels
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said more than 900 GPs' practices are not meeting accepted safety standards because of basic failings.
Inspections took place at a number of surgeries deemed to be high risk ahead of the introduction of a more rigorous regulatory framework next year, which will see more regular visits to struggling practices.
Concerns were expressed by investigators in a third of cases and nine instances prompted the CQC to order improvements so fewer people would be at risk of medical negligence or infections.
In one particularly worrying development, inspectors at the Norris Road surgery in Sale, Cheshire, found emergency medicines were past their expiry date, while some vaccines were six months out-of-date - something that could have reduced the efficacy of treatment courses.
But this was not the only case of poor management and the Dale Surgery in Nottinghamshire, which was previously considered to be a "good" practice, was found to have maggots, insects and rooms that were full of cobwebs.
While officials at the facility resolved the issue immediately, this still represents a breach in infection control and could have put the health and safety of users at risk.
Speaking to the Guardian, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "GP services make up the vast majority of public interactions with the health and social care system, so it is vital that access is fair to all and that practices are carefully monitored to ensure that they are providing a high quality service for patients living in that community.
"Out-of-hours care must operate effectively, efficiently, safely and compassionately in the best interests of the patients."
While some cases brought to attention in the CQC report are due to poor management, the Royal College of General Practitioners has previously claimed there is a "funding crisis" in practices across the UK, which is making it harder for standards to improve.
The government denies this and argues its decision to ring-fence the Department of Health's budget has guaranteed a steady quality of care across NHS England.
Following the CQC’s investigation, some alarming factors have been unearthed. It is completely unacceptable for healthcare providers to fall so far below the expected health and safety standard – let alone for GP surgeries to administer out-of-date medicines and for maggots to be found in treatment rooms.
“These surgeries had not been complying with strict guidelines in terms of infection control and cleanliness – therefore potentially putting patients at serious risk. Urgent action is required to ensure that the failings of these surgeries are addressed and ultimately never repeated again.”
Lisa Jordan - Partner