The first two GP practices to be rated under the Care Quality Commission’s inspection regime have been assessed as ‘outstanding’.

Salford Health Matters and Irlam Medical Practice, both in Greater Manchester, received the top rating after inspections were carried out last month. The former was rated as outstanding across every service area.

CQC chief inspector of general practice Steve Field said he was “absolutely thrilled that the first two reports that we published since introducing the new methodology are from outstanding practice”.

Steve Field

Despite working in ‘challenging circumstances’, both practices rated well, Steve Field said

“Both of them are in the Salford area - a deprived area of the North West - and they both demonstrate, in slightly different ways, that despite working in challenging circumstances, they can provide safe, effective, compassionate care very responsive to the local patients,” he said.

Salford Health Matters operates as a social enterprise with a board of directors and is led by a non-clinical chief executive.

Dr Field described it as “an interesting… new model of care for most GPs” with a “really excellent skill mix” of staff, including advanced nurse practitioners.

He praised its “systematic way of looking at incidents, learning from them, sharing them [both] within the practice and also within the local CCG area”, and its close working with Salford Royal Hospital.

He described Irlam Medical Practice as a “small, traditional, general medical practice” run by three GP partners “which just happens to link very well with its colleagues across the area, and also with the local hospital”.

Dr Field said this showed how “small practices can do well as long as they link up and join with others”.

“It’s not about the size of the practice or the number of patients, it’s the fact that they’re linked together which is the key,” he said.

“One of our findings in the [CQC’s 2013-14] state of care report is that smaller practices tend to do worse that bigger practices, but it’s not the size, it’s the isolation [that is responsible for their poor performance].”