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One GP in five has blown whistle on a colleague

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: One GP in five has blown the whistle on a GP colleague because of concerns over their fitness to practise, a Pulse survey has found.

More than a quarter of respondents said they were aware of at least one of their GP colleagues who they regarded as incompetent or whose practice they felt was impaired, with many acting on their concerns.

The findings of the survey, commissioned as part of Professor Martin Roland's guest editor issue, seem to reinforce warnings from commissioning leaders that consortia will be faced with responsibility for rooting out a minority of unfit GPs.

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field caused controversy at the recent RCGP conference when he called for a clampdown on ‘poorly performing' GPs. And the National Association of Primary Care – which is closely aligned with the Government's white-paper reforms – has called for GP consortia to have the power to terminate contracts for GPs failing against tough new performance measures.

Of 350 respondents to the survey, 27% said they knew at least one current GP who they felt was incompetent or impaired, while 18% said they had reported a GP colleague for incompetence or impaired practice during their time in practice.

Dr Johnny Marshall, chair of the NAPC, said the findings were a ‘very powerful statement' about GPs' role in monitoring their colleagues' performance: ‘Local GPs have a good understanding of which of their colleagues is performing well and which isn't. The fact GPs are already willing to take that responsibility is a really powerful statement and supports the direction of travel the NAPC is suggesting.'

He added: ‘I would hope most of those GPs would be keen to improve. It's those who don't who would cause us concern.'

But Dr Mark McCartney, a GP in Pensilva, Cornwall, who has reported concerns about a colleague's performance, said he was worried about the lack of support once GPs were under investigation: ‘We're obliged to report concerns if we have them under GMC guidelines. But there is always another side to a story. What concerns me is whether there is a system of fair investigation for colleagues.'

Dr McCartney said he was also wary that GPs who raised concerns might be ‘putting themselves at risk by raising something which is found to be unsubstantiated', and added: ‘We are not all comfortable with the systems in place.'

Dr Johnny Marshall: the findings are a powerful statement about GPs' role Dr Johnny Marshall: the findings are a powerful statement about GPs' role Click here for more from our guest editor issue Guest editor Professor Martin Roland on...whistleblowing

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