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GPs comprise third of the referrals for poor performance

GPs have accounted for one-third of referrals to the National Clinical Assessment Authority in its first 18 months, its latest figures have shown.

The authority also reported last week that its caseload had grown by 130 per cent over its first year and that it expected to have handled 400 cases by April next year.

Of these, around 130 are expected to be GPs. The figure is in line with the proportion of GPs in the total medical workforce.

The statistics reveal that male GPs in their late 50s are far more likely to be referred to the authority than their younger or female colleagues.

Nearly a third of referrals have concerned male GPs aged between 55 and 59. Males account for 81 per cent of referrals overall.

Medical director of the authority Dr Alastair Scotland said: 'On the face of it women are less likely to be referred.'

Early analyses of the referral figures show four out of five of all cases centred on the capability of the clinician, but were also compounded by a health or behavioural problem. 'This shows us very clearly that poor performance is a multi-factorial problem,' said Dr Scotland.

At a recent conference to release the figures, RCGP president Professor Dame Lesley Southgate raised concerns over how the authority could keep track of locums.

'Becoming a locum might be the early sign of a doctor's career having a problem,' she said.

'A convenient thing for the primary care trust, as an

employer, would be to let them go as soon as possible.'

Dr Scotland said the new NHS internal locum agency might help solve the problem.

'Our process is a three-way act ­ the doctor, the organisation and ourselves,' he said. 'If that three-way process is broken it becomes extremely difficult to do the job.'

In 30 out of 36 cases against all doctors being considered for possible suspension by the authority, it has given advice on alternative resolutions, such as temporary restrictions on practice, redeployment and a cooling-off period.

The authority takes referrals from trust managers about poorly performing doctors. Cases where patients are at risk are referred to the GMC.

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