Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. The CQC inspects General Practitioner (GP) practices using a single assessment framework and uses five key questions to determine whether a GP practice is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. The GP practice is then rated as outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. The CQC undertake announced or unannounced inspections.

In terms of medicines management, the inspection team aims to determine how the provider ensures the proper and safe use of medicines.

This webpage is aimed at health and care professionals working in GP Practices within BSW to highlight relevant resources in preparing for a regulatory inspection, with a focus on resources that help support the medication related elements.

Please contact the BSW Medicines Optimisation Team if you would like more information or support, or to give feedback and suggestions on the content of this webpage.

CQC Clinical Searches

The CQC has developed a suite of clinical searches with Ardens which are now routinely used when carrying out inspections of GP practices. They are designed to focus on areas of clinical importance, reflecting the agreed shared view of quality and to contribute to a consistent regulatory approach. The majority of the searches focus on safe prescribing, monitoring of higher risk drugs, management of long-term conditions and identification of potential missed diagnoses. They identify cohorts of patients who may require further attention.

Find out more about CQC Ardens Clinical Searches

Watch this video on how to access the CQC Ardens Searches

They are not intended to be used (nor should they be) as a substitute for a GP practice’s own governance systems and processes for managing patient care.

Recommendation: Periodically run the Care Quality Commission (CQC) clinical searches to assess how well your practice’s own governance systems and processes are working, to improve patient care and to prepare for a GP practice inspection in England.

PrescQIPP “Preparing GP practices for regulatory inspection” bulletin


PrescQIPP have produced a comprehensive resource to support GP practices with the medication elements of CQC regulatory assessment.
View Bulletin 322: Preparing GP Practices for Regulatory Inspection 

Recommendation: GP practices should have robust systems and processes in place to ensure the routine delivery of safe and effective patient care, following national guidance (the CQC searches should not solely be used to prepare for inspections as they often only cover the highest level of risk and so are not suitable as a substitute for good clinical governance). The systems and processes should be documented and evidenced.

Recommendation: GP practices should have a medicines policy in place covering prescribing, including high-risk drugs, controlled drugs and repeat dispensing. View sample of medicines policy under Bulletin 332 resources attachment (for local adaptation as appropriate).

British Medical Association: ‘How to prepare for a CQC inspection'

The BMA have produced a practical guide for GP practices preparing for their inspection by the CQC – including pre-inspection, what happens on the day, outcomes, case studies and essential resources.
View the guide on the BMA website.

You can also access a practice walkthrough and check list; which may be shared with relevant colleagues within the practice to help prepare for the regulatory assessment.

Other Resources