Prior to carrying out any dentistry, every dental provider must be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It is a criminal offence to own a practice without being CQC registered. The process of making an application can be complex and often applications are rejected over the most trivial piece of outstanding information. For instance, incorrect use of the form, incomplete location details, missing declarations and the inclusion of inaccurate information are all factors that can result in delays or the application being rejected. This can be frustrating for both a dental practice seller or buyer, so it is vital to try and get things right first time.
It is important to note that applications must be submitted at the appropriate time during the transaction (i.e. not too early and not too late). The CQC takes approximately 10 to 12 weeks to process an application from start to finish. Although the CQC aims to determine the outcome of an application within these 10 to 12 weeks, it does not mean to say that the application can go beyond this timescale, as explained below. It is also important to understand that the CQC application is part of the whole transaction process.
The new provider application will ask for an ‘effective date’ which is essentially, the date of completion. It is very important that consideration is given to a number of factors before considering whether an application should be submitted yet. The list of factors discussed below is by no means exhaustive and there may be various other factors to bear in mind, but consideration should still be given to a few basic principles.
Submitting an application too late (i.e. with less than the 10 to 12 weeks needed for an application to be processed) will most likely lead to an assessor not processing the application in time for the desired completion date. Conversely, submitting an application outside of the maximum 12 week timescale may also lead to an assessor rejecting an application for being submitted too soon.
For an NHS practice, the registration of the partnership should happen on the same day the buyer is added as a provider to the GDS contract (i.e. the changes should happen simultaneously and it is worth noting that NHS England usually agree to any variations at the start of the month – as opposed to mid-month, for instance). Whilst this does not necessarily apply to private practices, the timescales imposed by CQC will still apply.
Another important point to consider – especially for a buyer – is whether notice to terminate any existing associate agreement needs to be served and if so, how long that notice period is. A buyer with 3 months’ notice period may wish to have a period of 3 months between exchange and completion, which should be taken into account when making an application.
Moreover, it is vital to consider whether the business and property elements of the transaction are also progressing as planned. It would be wise to hold off from submitting applications if there are certain factors preventing the business or the property elements from progressing.
Applications submitted with the earliest possible date in mind (within the 10 to 12 week timescale) are often rejected by CQC because completion goes beyond the date, leading to extensions being requested. It is important to understand that CQC cannot keep applications open indefinitely and whilst many inspectors are aware and appreciate that delays often occur, it is still in their discretion as to whether an application should be kept open or not. If so, they often do so for a maximum number of weeks.
In any case, if you are ever unsure of the most appropriate action to take, you can seek trusted advice and guidance from experienced dento-legal solicitors, Goodman Grant. The team will work closely with you to ensure you submit your CQC application within the best timeframe, thus helping you avoid the risk of your application being rejected.