The man in charge of inspecting family doctors, Professor Steve Field, has warned that as many as 200 GP surgeries face being closed down or placed into special measures due to serious failings in patient care.
Professor Field stated that the current situation was so serious that some of the worst performing surgeries would be forced to close their doors immediately, and others would be given a maximum of 12 months to improve, or also face closure.
Early inspections by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) indicate that as many as 200 out of the 8,000 GP practices across England may fall into the “failing” category and could be placed into special measures.
The new, more rigorous programme of inspecting every GP surgery will be launched shortly and all GP practices will be inspected. Inspections begin next month, and the results will be made publically available in a similar way to Ofsted inspection reports for schools.
During the pilot phase of the inspection process, inspectors found a huge range of issues such as patients thought to be suffering from cancer being referred late to see a specialist, patients being given the wrong type of medication, staff shortages, management chaos, over-prescribing of antibiotics, childhood vaccines not being properly refrigerated and old-fashioned and unclean premises.
The team led by Professor Field has been inspecting surgeries across England for the past year. During one check last December at a practice in Nottingham, maggots were found.
Hardly surprisingly, the BMA have refused to accept the inspectors’ findings. One of the most senior GPs at the BMA, Dr Paul Cundy, who had his own surgery inspected during the pilot phase, said the new inspection system was “unfit for purpose” and caused outrage when he criticised the CQC for inspecting surgeries when “they can’t get their own house in order”. This can be taken as yet another indication that our GPs, who are in the main very good at what they do, cannot accept that there could be anything wrong with the system and then heap the blame onto someone else.
Professor Field said that the results of the pilot inspections suggest that although only 2% of surgeries fall into the “failing” category, the large variations in care standards found were “very serious” and could affect the health of thousands of patients. Professor Field also painted a picture of improvement given that when the inspection process started almost a third of practices were failing to meet the basic standards, and this has now dropped to less than 20%.
Additional support has been allocated from NHS England to the very poorest surgeries to help them improve. Professor Field’s team believe that some of the “failing” surgeries had been performing at a very low level for many years. His conclusions were that although the GP service here in the UK is seen as the “jewel in the crown” of the NHS, it is being undermined by a very small number of surgeries and GPs who are just not coming up to scratch.
When asked to respond to the findings, unsurprisingly the BMA passed the buck. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the GP Committee of the BMA said that failings were due to an “extremely difficult and challenging” environment. He also flagged up issues such as accommodation which is not fit for purpose, and said it was not fair to blame GPs for factors which they couldn’t control.
Just how are we going to improve the overall standard of England’s GPs and reduce the number of medical error compensation claims if their own governing body will not accept that any of their members could ever be capable of substandard care?
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