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DH shelves plans to make GPs work minimum number of sessions

The Department of Health has shelved plans that would have prevented GPs from practising if they had worked less than 200 sessions over five years.

The DH had proposed this change - originally suggested by the RCGP - in a consultation on transferring the management of performers’ lists of doctors, dentists and ophthalmologists to the NHS Commissioning Board in April.

But officials have reconsidered their stance after a third of the 107 consultation respondents said they were against the introduction of a minimum practice provision.

The DH said: ‘The most controversial part (of the consultation) was the introduction of the minimum practice provision. While the majority thought the idea had merit, there are considerable practical challenges in implementing it that had not been resolved. Therefore the proposal will not be implemented at this stage, but the NHS Commissioning Board will lead further work to consider the proposal further.’

Some respondents said the move would discriminate against part-time workers, older doctors and senior doctors involved in managerial roles in the health service or elsewhere.

Women would be disproportionately affected because they tend to be the primary carers of children and take more time out from work than men, some respondents pointed out.

The Patients’ Association cautioned that if GPs were removed from the list for not completing a certain number of sessions there would be a reduced pool of doctors ‘willing and able to provide out-of-hours or locum services’.

However, the NHS Commissioning Board will retain PCTs’ powers to remove from the performers’ list any GP who has not provided any services over 12 months, the DH said.

The proposal to create a national list to replace local lists previously held by PCTs will go ahead after ‘overwhelming support’, the DH said.

The DH also said it will not grant the Board powers to withdraw payment from practitioners who are suspended, but the Board will be able to suspend a performer immediately if their conduct ‘creates a serious risk to the public’. Currently, performers are given at least 24 hours’ notice before a suspension.

Some practitioners under suspension will be able to continue working ‘subject to interim conditions’, the DH said.

The RCGP was unavailable for comment ahead of publication.

Doctors to face English language checks

The response to the consultation also confirmed the Government’s intention to include English language checks as a requirement for doctors to secure a place the performers’ list. The checks will be carried out by responsible officers.

In the new draft regulations, the DH said the NHS Commissioning Board ‘must refuse to include a practitioner in a performers’ list’ if it ‘is not satisfied that the practitioner has sufficient knowledge of the English language necessary for the work’.

The plans, first announced by ministers in October 2011, are designed to tighten procedures ito avoid a repeat of the case of Danuel Ubani, the German locum who killed a patient by administering 10 times the standard dose of diamorphine on his first out-of-hours shift in the UK.