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Independents' Day

Hunt announces plans for a chief inspector of primary care

GP practices face an added layer of regulation under plans announced by the health secretary for a ‘chief inspector of primary care’, in the wake of the Francis report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Jeremy Hunt announced today he is considering plans for a chief inspector to provide an ‘expert view’ of primary care to mirror the appointment of chief inspectors for hospitals, announced last week, to uphold standards and make the final call when a practice is failing.

Speaking at thinktank Reform’s conference today, Mr Hunt also said that a new ‘judgement’ factor could be introduced into CQC inspections so that the regulator is ‘not just measuring the dials’.

He said: ‘The debate over mid-Staffordshire and the setting up of a chief inspector in hospitals will lead to a debate about whether we should have a chief inspector of primary care or someone who will go round giving an expert view of primary care services.

‘I think it’s important to the public to have a sense to how well their money is being used.’

Mr Hunt said that CQC inspections should be overhauled in light of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust reviewed by the Francis report, so that there are consequences to providing poor care.

Managers needed to feel their jobs were on the line if they provided sub-standard care, he said, and added that primary care could also benefit from such reforms: ‘I think that there are a number of other parts of the system that could benefit from improvements to the inspection regime and in particular the insertion of an element of judgement, not just measuring the dials. Primary care - yes.’

He also announced a pledge to reduce the bureaucracy in the NHS by a third, asking NHS Confederation’s chief executive Dr Mike Farrar to produce a preliminary report in March on how joint inspections and shared information can ‘improve clinical outcomes and free up more time to care’.

Mr Hunt said he wanted to reduce bureaucracy for ‘the GP who spends hours chasing information that should be readily available’.

These reforms would stop ‘the dead hand of micromanagement from crushing the good out of it’, he added.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GPC negotiator, said the appointment of a chief inspector of primary care would bring little value to an overpopulated regulatory system.

He said: ‘It is questionable as to what the appointment of a chief inspector for primary care will achieve compared with huge numbers of people already inspecting - I think primary care is one of the most-inspected areas of the healthcare system that carries the least risk.’

He added: ‘We’ve heard it many times before but reducing bureaucracy is vitally important. There are too many bodies taking info on practices. Want to see that reduced and consolidated so the burden is lifted, freeing up GPs and other staff to care for patients.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • Tom Caldwell

    Can we have a chief inspector of government ministers to ensure they are acting in our best interests. To make sure for example that massive "efficiency" savings are not demanded at the same time as fundamental change in the way the NHS is run? Perhaps they could ensure that additional non-clinical activity such as CQC is not added to a GP's workload to distract us from caring for our patients. The rhyming slang sec of state really does live up to his name.

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  • Perhaps the SoS for Health could start by having a look at his proposed changes for QOF under the contract imposition and the 4 DESs that seem to have been thought up by a group of special advisors who have never been near someone with a medical degree. Oh that's right, they have been thought up by special advisors who have never been near someone with a medical degree.

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  • On one hand he proposes to "cut the bureaucracy" but on the other hand he wishes to install an extra layer of regulation by appointing a chief inspector (whatever that is). His government wishes the primary care to be given the power to shape the NHS, yet he also wishes to have a powerful regulator who will have the final say.

    Well, which is it Jeremy? You can't have both...............

    Sorry, I take it back. He isn't mad. He has quite a clear and intelligent plan - to destroy the primary care as we know it, and to sell it off to a commercial organization who will run a cheap and irresponsible care. Horse meat in your iron tablets anyone?

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  • Does the secretary of state mean a chief inspector of GP services or of primary care? Primary Care is a far wider reaching area than just GP services

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  • And this was the government that was going to cut bureaucracy! I know just the man for the job. Sir David Nicholson. D'oh!

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  • One of the problems with Mid Stafford was that there were too many organisations involved none of whom were taking overall responsibility and they weren't communicating with each other. This is just another layer of pointless management. Just what is the purpose of CQC?

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  • Very amusing first post.
    Perhaps when Mr Hunt is a bit older and more experienced he will understand that you can't cure bad management by imposing more management, that good management and leadership are skills which don't occur by chance but need nurturing at all levels, and that a regime of reporting and inspection eventually becomes self serving but is rarely either efficient or productive.
    There really is a good case for a minimum age for Government Ministers, and an objective test for experience and common sense might help I think.

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  • I dont think we need more regulation. What we do need is much stronger action taken against both managers and clinicians if things go wrong. So yes sack/ prosecute managers where they are shown to be negligent, but also do the same with the Consultants responsible for the patients care too

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  • So, Having greatly increased bureaucracy, they now want to reduce it, something that no previous government has succeeded in doing. Then what ,increase it again increase it again ?

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  • Chief inspector,commissioning, QOF changes, CQC, increased GMC activity, constant NHS changes.
    All consume time and money that would be better spent on direct patient care.

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