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GMC gets eyes and ears in every PCT

A disciplinary officer is to be positioned in every PCT to act as the GMC's eyes and ears under hugely controversial plans to tighten up medical regulation.

Each will work with the GMC to identify and handle cases of 'poor performance' among doctors, raising fears that they will effectively perform the role of local spies.

The proposals, outlined by Gordon Brown in parliament last week, have dashed hopes that ministers would seek a compromise limiting devolved regulation to a wider regional level.

Under the plans, due to go before parliament in the autumn, 'all healthcare organisations' employing or having contracts with doctors are to appoint so-called 'responsible officers'.

The BMA reacted angrily to the plans, claiming they effectively meant a return to the proposals made by chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson last year, for GMC affiliates at a local level. These were thought to have been dropped after fierce objections by the BMA, which claimed complaints would not be handled independently if overseen by people employed by PCTs.

The proposals, published as part of the Health and Social Care Bill after months of deliberations, envisage two levels of regulation, with responsible officers at PCT level and GMC affiliates at regional level. Responsible officers will have the power to summon GPs to resolve patient complaints and be tasked with rooting out poor professional performance.

Dr Kailash Chand, a GPC member and a GP from Ashton-under-Lyne in Manchester, warned the revival of the chief medical officer's plans would mean ordinary GPs would be constantly looking over their shoulder. 'It would be like working with a policeman always standing there,' he said.

Dr Shan Whitear, a GP in Hadleigh in Essex, said the PCT enforcers would inevitably be seen as 'Big Brother' by GPs. She said: 'Yes, there are a few bad GPs about. But most of us are quite hard-working, quite competent and doing a fairly good job. I can't see the point.'

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said after the proposals for the bill were published last week: 'On the surface, this sounds very similar to the idea of local GMC affiliates. 'We pointed out at the time that this was an unworkable idea and we suggested instead a regional network, rather than an employer-based network, to improve clinical governance.'

Professor Martin Marshall, Sir Liam's deputy, revealed the role of responsible officers would be taken by PCTs' medical directors, on top of their role in providing clinical guidance to GPs. The Department of Health refused to comment further on the proposals.

Displinary officer in every PCT will act as the GMC's eyes and ears GMC 'affiliates' plans were thought to have been scrapped Dr Whitear believes PCT enforcers will be seen as 'Big Brother' by GPs Dr Shan Whitear

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