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Profile: Inspector Field takes on his biggest challenge yet

As Professor Steve Field is appointed as the first chief inspector of general practice, Sofia Lind looks at his past form.

Professor Steve Field has been quiet of late, but his appointment as chief inspector of general practice thrusts him right back into the national spotlight.

Viewed as a capable RCGP chair and ranked among the most influential GPs in the UK for several years running, he has carved himself a somewhat controversial career since he left the college in 2010.

Most famously, he was the chair of the NHS Future Forum that was tasked with leading a ‘listening exercise’ on the Government’s health reforms in 2011. Almost exactly a year ago, he was appointed NHS England’s deputy medical director.

He was described in Pulse’s 2012 Top 50 as a ‘you either love him or hate him’-style figure, and he certainly is not afraid to speak his mind, even if it makes him unpopular.

Over the past couple of years this has included giving his support for the removal of practice boundaries (he described GP resistance as ‘complete bollocks’) and during the inflamed debate on GP out-of-hours care in the spring, Professor Field took to his Twitter account to announce that GPs ‘should never have given up responsibility’ in the first place.

But his appointment will please some GPs, as he will bring a detailed understanding of the profession to the post and is well-respected for his work on reducing inequalities in the NHS.

A GP from a deprived part of Birmingham, Professor Field has been a champion of the value of integration over competition in the new-world NHS.

But his new role is going to be tough. It includes the responsibility for forming an ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings system for GP practices – something that is not going to go down well with his GP colleagues. He also has to restore faith in a regulator that has not endeared itself to GPs.

But if his performance at the 2011 NHS Alliance conference is anything to go by, Professor Field is not going to be a push-over. He said then that the provision of general practice in the UK was variable to the extent that it had ‘lost the plot’.

Now he has the power to sort this out, GPs had better watch out.

Readers' comments (6)

  • That's us screwed then!

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  • good thing he still spends a significant amount of time seeing patients and working as a gp.... what, he doesn't? he hasn't for years? Oh. Not a GP then is he.

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  • I underwent a vigorous training to be a GP / practice assessor for the GMC way back in 1997. Has Professor Field had any training in practice assessment?

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  • Tom Caldwell

    Prof Field seems undeniably keen on high profile job roles. How much time does this leave him to actually spend seeing his deprived inner city patients? I ask this question simply because it is the continually quoted example of his involvement in General Practice.

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  • As an interested non-medical service-user, I've seen Field in action on lots of occasions since July 2010: several "consultations" (never real in my experience), 2 of the "listening exercises" (ditto), panel discussions and seminars. The introduction was always "He is/I am a GP" which inevitably & immediately raises the question asked above: Really? How much of his time can he possibly be giving to GP-ing? How many "continuing-care-able" locums does he provide for his "patients"? Would an f.o.i request be responded to/reveal this? He also consistently claimed "independence" during the "listening exercise"; given his stance throughout the "Liberating the NHS" fandango this was at the very least questionable in my opinion but one of VERY MANY such questions BBC Radio4 interviewers NEVER asked! (And extraordinarily rarely did they interview anyone further along the spectrum of opinion, ,let alone at the other end of it!) I am alarmed by this appointment.
    For whom is he not going to be "a push-over"? The electorate who were never asked & absolutely did not want - & were promised they wouldn't get! - the 2012 H&SC Act? Or the large majority of doctors AND other health professionals of whom the same is true? And how ok is he about "speaking his mind" to the extent of "making him(self) unpopular" with the government paying his wages? Like telling them that "integration" is so much more important than (much more costly) competition that it's time they dropped the latter? I have some respiratory problems - I'm not holding my breath!

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  • Steve Field had the opportunity to stop Lansleys reforms and he didn't take it . Either he didnt recognize how bad they were or he did and failed to act on it. Neither is an attractive proposition

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