GP practices could have an extra year to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), after the regulator asked the government to move back the current April 2012 deadline.
The CQC says it wants more time to "improve the process for GPs", to allow more time to embed compliance monitoring in the sectors it already regulates and to make sure registration is more closely aligned with accreditation schemes.
A CQC spokesperson confirmed the proposal "to extend GP registration beyond the current deadline of 1 April 2012", and suggested that this could be put back until 2013. However, the current deadline "is set in legislation and is therefore subject to further discussion with the Department of Health," the spokesperson said.
The Department of Health (DH) said that the CQC have made a "number of suggestions" about the registration of primary medical service providers.
A DH spokesperson told GP Business: "The Department is considering the issues that CQC has raised," but added: "Any change to the April 2012 start date for registration would require a change to legislation, which would be subject to consultation and debate before Parliament."
The DH confirmed that registration will still open in October 2011 for dedicated out-of-hours services, but said "the timing and make-up of subsequent batches is still to be confirmed."
The CQC strenuously denied that this had anything to do with the government's 'pause' over the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament.
A CQC spokesperson told GP Business: "The aim of this proposal is to ensure that the process works as smoothly as possible.
"We've been working with hospitals, nurses, dental practices, and have been learning from this process. We want to lighten any potential burden and ensure that we add as little extra work as we can onto GPs."
However, Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) GPs' Committee, said that if a delay resulted in no change in the guidance GPs would not necessarily be better off.
"We have been raising concerns with both the CQC and the Department of Health about the huge workload practices will incur and costs, both in registration and delivery. If there is a delay, and that's not been confirmed, then there needs to be an opportunity to review the expectations on practices."