Our Team


Can you challenge the CQC?

Despite increasing pressure being placed on frontline care teams, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has revealed that GP practices are providing a consistently good quality of care, with 93% rated good or outstanding.

Practices are also significantly more likely to maintain their rating upon reinspection than other NHS providers.

But what if an inspection takes place and you disagree with its findings? What are your options for challenging the ratings given?

CQC inspections

All GP practices are subject to a comprehensive inspection by the CQC at least once every three years. This consists of inspectors collating information externally and then being on site for a day to observe. Further follow up inspections may also be undertaken, if a particular concern has been raised in a previous inspection.

Inspectors assess all practices on the following points:

  • Are they safe?
  • Are they effective?
  • Are they caring?
  • Are they responsive to people’s needs?
  • Are they well-led?

They also look at how services are delivered to people in specific population groups, such as the elderly, people with long term conditions and those experiencing poor mental health.

‘Evidence’ will be gathered from multiple sources. This may include looking at feedback and complaints, assessing local and national data, speaking to service users and staff, and any insights gained through the onsite inspection. From this evidence, a report and ratings will then be produced.

When can you challenge a CQC report?

Draft report

A draft copy of the report will be sent to the practice and it is as this point that you will be invited to provide feedback on its ‘factual accuracy’.

At first glance, the term factual accuracy may suggest that you can only correct stated facts, such as the number of staff they have recorded. However, in reality this is your chance to challenge all inaccuracies in the report and its findings, including questioning the evidence base and how it has been construed to justify the conclusions drawn.

Time is short. You will only have 10 working days to review the draft report and submit any comments.

Published report

Once a report has been published, you can also ask for a review of the ratings if you feel inspectors did not follow the correct process and procedures. You must tell the CQC of your intention to do this within 5 working days of the report being published.

Drafting your response

While there may be things in the report that you disagree with or feel are unfair, that alone is not enough. Any challenge must be based on specific issues with the evidence and how it has been interpreted, or the process that inspectors have followed.

If you believe a report to be an unfair representation of the level of service you provide, then how you word your response is important.

  • Your aim is to describe why the service provided does not justify the rating it has been given, in relation to the Provider Guidance descriptions. It is therefore important that you refer back to the specific items in the Guidance (available on the CQC website).
  • Don’t worry about fitting your comments within the boxes provided on the form. It is more important that you lay out your case clearly, so feel free to write on a separate sheet.
  • Show you understand the whole process and all guidelines by making reference to The Fundamental Standards, The CQC Provider Guidance and The CQC Enforcement Policy
  • Always avoid including any comments that are emotive (‘this is completely unfair’) or just opinion, (‘it’s impossible with the funding we have’). You need to demonstrate how a different opinion could/should have reasonably been reached by looking at the facts more carefully.

Our recommendations

While it is true that many challenges are not upheld, it is by no means uncommon for challenges to succeed. The key is always in the preparation of the supporting documentation.

If you are unhappy, make sure your concerns are submitted within the deadline. This is difficult in itself as the deadlines are so tight.

We’d always recommend that you prepare fully for the inspection itself, and present the strongest evidence you can. Try to gauge at the inspection itself whether there are any concerns, since you will only have 10 days to respond once you receive the draft report and this is very little time to gather any additional evidence. Then, if you are faced with a report and ratings you feel are unfair and inaccurate, ensure you document your response in the right way.

If in doubt, ask for advice as quickly as possible from an experienced legal team, as they will be able to help you prepare your challenge, giving you best the possible chance of it being upheld.

For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com

Our Team


Can you rely on your ‘green socks’ clause?

Making the decision to expel a partner is never an easy one and the reasons for doing so will vary widely.

Some situations will be straightforward. A partner may, for example, be found to be in clear breach of the partnership deed if there is an issue of gross misconduct. Unfortunately, less clear-cut circumstances are more common, such as a personality clash that is causing disfunction within the partnership and preventing it from operating effectively.

In these instances, a ‘green socks’ clause could be the answer. But can they be relied upon in practice?

What is a green socks clause?

A green socks clause is a clause that can be included in a partnership agreement, which allows partners to be expelled on ‘no fault’ grounds. Its name refers to the fact that the reason for expulsion could be as innocuous as wearing the wrong colour socks.

An example of when you may wish to use such a clause would be an under-performing partner. An under-performing partner can create unease in a practice, resulting in low morale amongst other partners and employees. Having the ability to expel such a partner, without having to rely on ‘with fault’ grounds, can be an attractive option and is often seen as an ‘easy’ way to resolve the problem.

Are green socks clauses legal?

For a green socks clause to be added to a partnership agreement, all partners must agree – which means there is no reason why it should not be effective in law. However, should an expelled partner decide to challenge their expulsion, the Courts will check that the correct process has been followed and that it has been carried out to the letter. They will also want to ensure that the process isn’t being abused in anyway, for example as a way to discriminate against an individual.

What can you do to reduce the risk?

Exercising a green socks clause is effectively relieving someone of their livelihood and their business, without explanation or rationale. For this reason, the courts will be very strict. Even the smallest deviation from the process is likely to invalidate the expulsion and expose the expelling partners to the risk of a counter claim. The Courts may also want to convince themselves that the underlying reason is not illegal (such as discrimination) so may well want to understand the expelling partners’ reasoning.

Remember that if the matter does become litigious, the process of disclosure will require that all evidence is released. This will include any emails, paper notes and other records however stored, as well as witness statements. If any of these hint at either a deviation from the process or an illegal reason, the Courts would take a very dim view. Given that tensions will be running high and the expelling partners are likely to generate a lot more correspondence than the sole partner being expelled, this can be a risky process.

For these reasons, it’s always wise to seek legal advice well before an expulsion is made. This can help you to ensure that you fully understand the process, and that emotions do not overrun in a way which could cause problems later on. You will also want to ensure that some documents are covered by ‘privilege’ and thus are not disclosable.

Our recommendations

A well drafted green socks clause can be beneficial on two counts. It can encourage all partners to carry out their duties conscientiously, and it can make it easier to take action against anyone who falls below the required standards.

However, they should not be seen as the ‘easy option’. A better starting point where there are problems is usually to consider whether a ‘with grounds’ expulsion clause can be used.

Green socks clauses are best avoided in two-man partnerships because they become too unstable. They should also be avoided in partnerships where two or more partners are closely related. This is because the relatives are unlikely to vote against each other, effectively meaning the green socks clause can only be used against the non-related partners.

It is good practice to ensure that unanimous consent is required to exercise a green socks clause – something which is often difficult to achieve – and to include a mandatory mediation process and cooling off period.

Exercising a green socks clause is a very drastic step to take and the decision should never be made lightly. If you are considering the expulsion of a partner, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice as early as possible to maximize your chances of success.

For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com