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Spectre of Little Brother

When it comes to GPs, it appears it is not just Big Brother who is going to be watching, but Big Brother’s Little Brother too.

When it comes to GPs, it appears it is not just Big Brother who is going to be watching, but Big Brother's Little Brother too.

The Government's plans for medical directors to function as the GMC's eyes and ears in every PCT will hand enormous power to these individuals.

At best, the system of recorded concerns that they will oversee – the medical equivalent of handing out police cautions – will allow greater transparency for patients and enable problems to be solved at local level, before they can escalate.

But at worst, they will open the door for victimisation of GPs by overzealous medical directors looking to make their mark and climb up the career ladder.

Avoiding the ordeal

There is a real fear GPs will come under pressure to hold their hands up over minor accusations that they would prefer to dispute, to avoid the ordeal of being dragged before the GMC. The Government says it wants to show patients who complain about issues – even if they do not merit professional regulatory action – that the GP has not been, in its words, ‘let off'.

The more regulation moves away from the standard that would be applied to alleged criminals in court, the more GPs face the risk of seeing their careers stigmatised without good reason. Let us at least hope the Government's consultation over the role of responsible officers is actually that. It would be unlike the GMC's so-called consultation over the move to a civil standard of proof in fitness-to-practise cases, which appears very much to be open and shut.

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