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Responsible officers could face ‘unacceptable conflict of interest’, warns BMA

Government plans to permit responsible officers to hold the dual role of managing primary care contracts and judging GPs' revalidation would represent an ‘unacceptable conflict of interest', the BMA has warned.

The Government's consultation Responsible officers in the new health architecture outlined plans for the NHS Commissioning Board to appoint responsible officers who would be a ‘senior doctor within a healthcare organisation with specific and personal responsibility for those aspects of clinical governance linking to medical revalidation'. 

But in its response to the consultation, the BMA said the move would mean that some individuals – such as medical directors – could be responsible for both the management of contracts and the revalidation of individual GPs.

The BMA response said: ‘Wehave some concerns about conflicts of interest that could arise, depending on where the NHS Commissioning Board chooses to place responsible officers within its structure.

‘As the NHS Commissioning Board will hold GP practice contracts, we believe it would represent an unacceptable conflict of interest for the same individual to be responsible for the management of these contracts and to carry out the responsible officer role for the revalidation of individual GPs.'

The BMA also said the Department of Health's proposal for locally based responsible officers to check the language competence of doctors was unworkable, and could lead to a postcode lottery across the UK: ‘Ensuring language competence is essential for patient safety, and must be done properly if it is to be done at all.'

The association added it had concerns about how locum GPs will link to a responsible officer under the new structures.