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CQC Essentials: Business continuity in general practice

The CQC explains what arrangements practices should have in place for emergenices and major incidents that could affect health or patient care.

This article relates to the CQC key question: Is your practice well-led?

GP practices need to plan for and respond to a number of wide ranging incidents that could affect health or patient care.

These incidents and emergencies could be extreme weather conditions, an outbreak of an infectious disease, a major traffic accident, industrial action or loss of accommodation. Planning ahead should enable your practice to recover more quickly and continue to provide a service to the population you serve.

The Civil Contingencies Act (2004) provides a framework for what tasks should be performed in the event of a civil emergency and how organisations should cooperate. Some NHS organisations are identified as ’category one‘ responders who have a legal duty to develop robust continuity management arrangements to help them maintain their critical functions in a major emergency or disruption.

Practices are not in ’category one’, but it is good practice for all providers of NHS funded care to act as if they were and to develop robust business continuity management arrangements.

Outbreak of an infectious disease

Pandemic influenza remains one of the top risks for the UK and any outbreak will have significant implications for primary care. Therefore all practices should plan for pandemic influenza as part of their business continuity arrangements. You need to ensure you have identified core, essential services and can maintain these when faced with an increase in patients with influenza-like symptoms whilst possibly experiencing staffing disruptions arising from the outbreak.

CQC inspections

As part of our judgement of how safe a practice is, Key Line of Enquiry S5 considers how well a practice anticipates and plans for potential risks to the service. During an inspection we will look at what arrangements are in place to respond to emergencies and major incidents.

Business continuity plans

Arrangements should be responsive to incidents that have a short, medium or long term impact on the running of the practice. Types of scenarios to consider when developing a business continuity plan are – what would you do if:

  • Significant numbers of staff could not come into work
  • IT systems were disrupted significantly
  • You could not use your premises for a period of time
  • Paper records were destroyed or damaged beyond use
  • A supplier was unable to deliver essential goods or services.

The plan should include up–to–date emergency contact numbers for staff and information within the plan must be accessible off-site.

Notifying CQC of a service disruption

Practices (providers) are legally required to inform us when there is a disruption to a service that may temporarily prevent them from delivering the regulated activity. See CQC Essentials: Disruption to services – notifying CQC.


NHS England has produced a management toolkit with examples for practices to consider:

Professor Nigel Sparrow is senior national GP advisor and responsible officer at the CQC

More CQC resources

Picture: iStock

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