One in 10 GP practices have been assigned the highest category of risk in an ‘intelligent monitoring’ system devised by the Care Quality Commission.

This is one of the findings of the first CQC monitoring report on GP practices, which uses 38 different indicators to determine the perceived risk of each practice in England.

Under the system each practice is assigned one of six risk ratings with one representing the “greatest perceived risk” and six the lowest.

The 900 practices categorised as band one will be first in the queue for inspections next year, the CQC has said.

Four in five practices fell into the four lowest bands.

The data also reveals stark regional variation in the proportion of practices falling into the lower bands.

Just 4 per cent of practices in the North East were rated as band one or two, while 20 per cent of London GP practices fell into these rankings.

One of the main reasons for practices being pushed into the lower bands is the difficulty of access to their GP or practice nurse.

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice, said intelligent monitoring was a way of helping the CQC prioritise inspections rather than a “ratings” regime or “league table”.

Judgements of practices would not be issued until after an inspection visit, he stressed.  

The CQC plans to update intelligent monitoring information on practices every three months.

Every GP practice is due to be inspected by April 2016.

Mike Bewick, NHS England’s deputy medical director, said: “As with all parts of the NHS, there is some variation.

“This data will help GPs understand where there could be improvement.”

Charles Alessi, co-chair of the National Association of Primary Care, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with the CQC to further develop models of monitoring to both lessen the burden of inspection and enrich the experience on the practices.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “We often hear about the difficulties people have trying to get an appointment with their GP. It is an area that general practice has to get right.

“Our own reports have highlighted the access that people have that matches the CQC’s analysis. We hope that the CQC’s work in highlighting this major issue will act as a catalyst and there will be some positive changes.”