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GPs could face official scrutiny over 'rumours'

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs could face tough new investigations of their medical practice because of an ambiguous clause in the Health and Social Care Bill, medical defence experts are warning.

The Medical Protection Society says the clause may see GPs investigated unnecessarily on the basis of little more than ‘tittle tattle and rumour'.

The MPS is supporting proposed amendments, tabled by members of the House of Lords, which it says would safeguard doctors against the sharing of information about them by trusts and other healthcare bodies.

The clause in question - clause 116 - proposes to allow ‘sharing of information which relates to the conduct or performance of any health care worker and which may show that that worker is likely to constitute a threat to the health and safety of patients'.

Dr Stephanie Bown, director of education and communications at the MPS, warned that the term ‘may show' could allow GPs to be investigated through the use of shared of information which isn't evidenced based.

Dr Bown said: ‘Our concerns have been that clause 116 could be interpreted as a justification for tittle tattle and rumour, and unjustified unproven allegations being disseminated without even the healthcare worker knowing about it.'

In a list of amendments to be presented to the House of Lords later this month, Earl Howe called for the term ‘may show' to be replaced with ‘would, if the case were proved', while Baroness Finlay said the term ‘shows' would make the legislation more robust.

The pair also stated their intention to oppose a separate clause introducing the civil standard of proof, which is expected to take effect on 31 May 2008.

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