Healthcare websites and other non-NHS services to be awarded quality ratings for the first time by CQC

The Department of Health has confirmed that it will grant the Care Quality Commission (CQC) the power to rate even more healthcare services, such as those that offer medical advice and prescriptions from GPs online, so that this becomes the default way that the regulator presents the judgements from its inspections.

This confirmation means that people will have clear, accessible and independent information about even more of their healthcare services in England.

CQC already rates NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and adult social care services as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. It does this following expert-led inspections, which are based around what matters most to people who use services – whether they are safe, caring, effective, responsive to their needs and well-led.

In September 2017, the Department of Health confirmed that it would broaden CQC’s powers to rate independent healthcare providers. These include cosmetic surgery, substance misuse and termination of pregnancy clinics.

At the same time, the Department of Health launched another public consultation, which proposed to increase CQC’s powers even further so that awarding ratings to the services CQC regulates should become the default way that CQC presents the judgements from its inspections. This would bring all independent community health services and independent doctors within scope.

This week, the Department of Health has published the outcome to this consultation, which confirms that its proposals have been accepted.

Hazel Jones, Programme Director for Apps and Wearables at NHS Digital, said: “We welcome the introduction of the CQC’s new rating scheme for digital GP tools, which supports the NHS-wide aim to provide reassurance and trusted advice around the growing number of digital healthcare tools available. This rating scheme will complement the NHS apps library, which aims to provide trusted digital tools for patients and the public to manage and improve their health.

“The library, which is still in test phase, currently includes a small number of GP apps which have all been assessed by the CQC. The requirement for CQC assessment is part of the set of digital assessment questions developers work through before an app is published on the library, which are jointly owned by the specialist organisations responsible for them.”