The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will be given the power to rate digital GP tools, the Department of Health has confirmed.
The move is intended to give people clearer information about a range of different healthcare services in England. These include a range of services that offer medical advice and prescriptions from GPs online.
The expansion of the CQC’s regulatory power also gives it access to inspect independent community health services and independent doctors.
The CQC will set to establish a system for how it will rate these additional services. The CQC’s new rating system will aim to cover services that can continuously develop such as digital apps.
The CQC already rates NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and adult social care services as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate.
David Behan, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “CQC’s ratings of health and care services are helping people to make informed choices about their care as well as supporting providers to improve. Never before has the public had such clear information about the quality and safety of their health and care services.
“CQC already inspects and publishes reports for these additional services and so, the ability to award ratings to them will bring increased transparency for the public about the quality and safety of their healthcare. We look forward to taking this work forward in the New Year.”
NHS Digital welcomed the announcement saying that the announcement will “protect patients in the growing healthcare app industry”.
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.”