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GPs to be stripped of right to practise if they miss targets

By Georgie Hobbs

GPs face being stripped of their right to practise if they miss clinical targets set by the Department of Health under plans for a powerful new regulator for the profession.

The new Care Quality Commission, detailed in the department's health and social care bill last week, will have formidable powers to investigate GPs, including spot checks on practices, access to medical records and confiscation of computer equipment. The commission will have the power to impose standards on fitness of premises and areas such as record keeping and account keeping.

Before the ink was dry on the plans, revealed exclusively by Pulse last week, details emerged of how regulators plan to use their new powers.

Lucy McCulloch, development manager for long-term conditions at the Healthcare Commission, told a meeting in Westminster in London that regulators were looking forward to the prospect of being able to crack down on GPs who failed to meet clinical targets.

She said it would ‘not be long' before the Care Quality Commission, which will absorb the powers of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Commission, would ‘revamp regulation'.

She added: ‘We have been asked to register everyone so that we can take away their registration when they don't do what they are supposed to do.'

The Government has refused to reveal the targets against which GPs will be judged, although the bill makes clear it will be up to the health secretary to set and revise standards.

The bill sets out a range of further sanctions for doctors seen to be failing, including fixed penalty fines for some offences.

Dr Stephanie Bown, director of education and communications at the Medical Protection Society, said the regulator's new powers were ‘huge', adding: ‘They can enter premises, look at computer systems, look at records and take them away.

‘We need to ensure proposals are not so onerous and cumbersome as to impede GPs' day-to-day work.'

Dr Kathy Lavelle, a GP in Norfolk, said the proposals for the new regulator seemed ‘extreme'. She warned: ‘It is actually quite hard to measure how good a GP is.'

The RCGP said the new plans were separate from its own plans for revalidation.

Crime and punishment

CQC powers to investigate
• Right to enter all GP premises and vehicles
• Powers to seize and remove any paper or computer records
• Allowed to interview GPs in private and re-examine their patients (provided patient consent given)
• Examine the state of premises as well as their management and patient treatment

CQC powers to punish GPs
• Remove registration
• Court action
• Fixed penalty fines, along the line of traffic warden fines, reduced if GPs pay up within a certain time frame
• Fines of up to £50,000 or up to 12 months' imprisonment or both if GPs fail to register

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