Jeremy Hunt plans special measures for doctors who fail their patients

Jeremy Hunt plans special measures for doctors who fail their patients

BMA speaks out against health secretary’s imminent move, saying it could damage patients’ trust in their GP practices.

Jeremy Hunt is preparing plans to place GPs into special measures if they are judged to be failing their patients, in a significant extension of the accountability system in the NHS.

The British Medical Association is warning that the move, to be announced imminently, could unfairly damage patients’ trust in their local practice and says the health secretary could sensationalise the few surgeries where problems have been found.

Hunt, buoyed by what he sees as the success of putting 11 hospital trusts into special measures last year, plans to extend that regime to GP practices and providers of adult social care, such as care homes.

He is expected to announce on Wednesday that the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator for health and social care, will be adopting the tougher system first for care homes.

That could result in homes that CQC inspectors deem to be providing unsafe or inadequate care being closed or handed over to another operator.

Officials have yet to finalise how the new system will work in relation to England’s 8,000 GP practices.

The move follows the scandal over 19 unexplained deaths at the Orchid View care home in Copthorne, Sussex, and revelations that some GP surgeries are dirty, mishandle medical records or do not store vaccines at the right temperature.

Hunt told MPs last month that the lessons of the official report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS scandal “need to be applied to the care home sector, to general practice, to all out-of-hospital care, every bit as much as they apply to NHS hospitals”.

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee, urged Hunt to avoid running down GP services and to think twice about an approach that could force some surgeries to close.

“It is important not to create a counterproductive blame culture based on isolated examples that would wrongly damage patient trust in wider GP services,” Nagpaul said. “We must not sensationalise isolated examples where there may be inadequate care.”

Practices providing an inadequate service might be doing so because they were struggling to recruit GPs or nurses or were being denied necessary resources by the NHS, Nagpaul added.

GPs are already voicing concerns about recent reports that individual GPs who fail to spot signs of cancer will be named and shamed and that surgeries that fail to keep enough over-60s out of hospital will have a red flag put on their entry on the NHS Choices website.

Eleven hospital trusts were put into special measures last year after the NHS medical director, Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, found care failings at them, and six others followed after CQC inspectors were worried by what they found.

Three of the 11 have recently been taken out of the regime, which can involve changes to the trust’s leadership and a buddying arrangement with a successful trust to drive up standards.

Hunt is expected to announce this week that, following accelerated improvements to the quality and safety of care, others are exiting the regime too. A spokesperson declined to comment.

Senior NHS sources say there are doubts about the CQC’s ability to subject enough care providers to its beefed-up forensic inspection regime and manage the extra scrutiny involved if more of them in general practice and social care are deemed to need to go into special measures.

  • The Guardian, 

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