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Independents' Day

RCGP resumes Government talks over practice ratings

The RCGP is to reopen talks with the Department of Health on developing a system to rate practices' performance, writes Helen Crump.

The college withdrew from negotiations in June after reports that it was backing a mandatory 'star ratings' style system provoked a storm of protest from GPs.

Ministers claimed at the time they were 'delighted' with the RCGP's proposals for accrediting practices.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, RCGP chair of council, was eventually forced into an apology over his handling of the issue.

The college has now decided to return to the table, but has pledged to fight for a voluntary system 'based on the principles of continuous improvement'.

At a council meeting this month, it agreed any programme, likely to be based on the Quality Team Development scheme, should not be implemented by the RCGP itself.

Instead, it wants to retain

responsibility to monitor and modify the criteria and quality assure the process.

Professor Nigel Sparrow, RCGP vice-chair, said the college had responded to GPs' concerns.

He said: 'It is imperative that any system should be voluntary, developmental, supportive of practice teams and be without gradings. We are reopening talks to ensure there is professional ownership.'

But GPs remained sceptical of the RCGP's involvement and about whether there should be any form of accreditation of practices.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, accused the college of being 'disingenuous' in saying it wouldn't be running the scheme, yet setting the content and criteria.

GPs who were not members of the college might question its authority to accredit them, he added.

Dr Dixon said: 'They must make clear why accreditation is necessary and why people should want to do it.

'What concerns me is the language, which does sound like the college telling everyone what to do.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said the practical implementation of any such scheme had to be conducted with the GPC.

He added: 'I think there's a lot of talking to go on first, both within the college and between the college and the GPC.'

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