Upsurge in GPs referred for clinical assessment
GPs are accounting for an increasing number of referrals to the National Clinical Assessment Authority, its latest figures reveal. The statistics, obtained exclusively by Pulse, also showed a dramatic rise in the authority's caseload in the six months to October.
It has handled 225 cases since April and expects to deal with 450 by the end of the year as many as in its previous two years in existence.
GPs have accounted for 40 per cent of the cases, up from 33 per cent last year.
Four GP cases out of five involve men and 79 per cent involved GPs over the age of 45, but this figure fell from 89 per cent last year.
The authority said referrals had been for a wide range of reasons, but were often linked to a breakdown in GPs' relationships with their partners or health problems such as stress or depression.
NCAA director Dr Alastair Scotland said the rise in referrals was encouraging because it showed awareness of the organisation was growing among primary care trusts.
In 85 per cent of cases in which the GP could have been considered for suspension, the NCAA recommended alternatives such as voluntary restrictions to working, redeployment or a cooling-off period.
Dr Scotland predicted the rate of GP referrals would increase further as PCTs settled into their role.
'We have seen a solid and steady increase in the willingness of people coming to us for help, and in their expectations of what they are going to get when they come to us,' he added.
'There is still a long way to go in making sure everyone in the NHS knows what to do, and also in working towards a time when no one needs to come to us at all.'
Dr Scotland said most GPs who had been through a clinical examination found it 'testing' but supportive.
He added that more male GPs were referred because a higher proportion of cases involved older GP principals, many of whom were taking on a specialty or more complex cases.
'The medical profession is changing the gender split is taking 40 years to catch up,' he said.
'The age group we see is not the average age group because we are overwhelmingly referred principals or consultants it is always the people who have reached the second half of their career.'