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The inspector is on the blower… The Emergency Support Framework blog!

by in CQC, GP Practice Management

First of all, I should start this blog by announcing that actually I’m a real advocate of having a healthcare regulator, and having the CQC is a good thing.

So, there it is… I’m now officially a social outcast and I await your abuse!

Background to the Emergency Support Framework (ESF)

It all started on 30th April 2020 when there was a joint announcement made by the three big cheeses at the CQC. The announcement stated that all service providers of health and social care would receive a supportive call from their respective inspectors. This would be a sort of debrief, asking how the war against COVID-19 had gone so far – a two-way conversation in which you’d have the opportunity to highlight any of your concerns. Then they’d point you in the right direction if they felt you could improve on supporting the safe delivery of care.

The CQC announced that they’d call this the ‘Emergency Support Framework’ or ESF.

This original announcement passed me by, and it wasn’t until Dr Rosie Benneyworth (Primary Medical Services Chief Inspector at the CQC) posted her blog on 14th May 2020 that it came across my radar. Ever since then, I’ve been wondering how the ESF will work.

I’m sure, in most cases, this will be a very positive experience – and, yes, I feel the timing isn’t right because all providers of health and social care are actually a little busy dealing with the pandemic right now. But, hey ho, in primary care we’re used to dealing with ‘fastballs’.


We understand, from the wonderful information source that is the Practice Index Forum, that the first phone calls have now been planned. Yes, the CQC does phone initially to arrange a date to go through this new ESFinspection process, similar to the Annual Regulated Review (ARR).

Now that I’ve mentioned the ‘i’ word, I imagine pens have gone flying and you’re shouting at your PC, “What does that Mat bloke know? The ESF isn’t an inspection… the duffer!”

Well, here’s the thing…

The CQC ESF webpage is very useful and contains lots of information. It’s even better now as late last Friday afternoon, just before the bank holiday weekend started, the CQC added the 15 PMS questions which they’ll imminently be asking you. When this information popped up, I thought “Great!” – especially as, literally just then, I’d been wondering what to do over the long weekend which was forecast to be nice and sunny.

Enough of my woes… On the ESF page, it states:

“Our emergency support framework is not an inspection, and we are not rating your performance.” It’s even in bold type. However, on the same page it also says that the CQC will take action to keep people safe”.

The CQC goes on to explain that this is simply a two-way conversation to see how you’ve been getting on during these tough few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But another reason for a crinked brow is that during my research of the brand-new “A Guide to the CQC Emergency Support Framework”, I was given a CQC PMS presentation by a friendly CQC inspector. This presentation was recently given by the CQC as a GP webinar and it’s full of really useful information about how the ESF is planned to work.

Now this is why I stand by that ‘inspection’ word, as in this presentation one of the slides is titled “Taking action to keep people safe and protect their human rights”, and in this slide it details that practices will be considered to be either “managing” or “needs support”. It goes on to state what actions are available to the CQC inspector with regard to those who need support. These actions are:

  1. To signpost the provider to information that can assist
  2. A further call
  3. “Carefully assess regulatory action through use of inspection and enforcement processes”.

Therefore, how can this be anything other than a very formal process?

So, I suggest you really do get those ducks in a row as you cannot stumble your way through any conversation with the CQC – even if you know the inspector well enough to know how many sugars they have in their cuppa. They have a job to do, just as we do.

So what?

Well, bank holidays are overrated anyway… So, to ensure you get what you deserve – that being a first-class service from Practice Index – I’ve been trawling through the CQC ESF information relentlessly and, having scrutinised those newly released questions, I’ve put together a 21-page guidance document called:

A Guide to the CQC Emergency Support Framework [PLUS]

In this guidance document, I hope to assist practices by describing what the CQC will expect you, the management team, to have considered. There are links to invaluable policies, which are available on [PLUS], and hundreds of useful links to supporting references from various sources – be it governmental, Health and Safety Executive, NHS England, Public Health England, NICE and of course our friends at the CQC.

This supporting document is all designed to assist you when the ‘inspector is on the blower!’

Good luck!

Mat Phillips

Read the first part of this blog on preparing for the Emergency Support Framework CQC call here 

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Mat Phillips

Mat Phillips

Mat Phillips is a Practice Manager and clinical governance specialist, facilitator and trainer. A primary care career spanning 30+ years within the NHS, in the UK Oil and Gas Industry and Royal Navy. Mat now provides specialist consultancy support to Practice Index and the wider primary care community.

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