The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) has urged GPs who are concerned over a colleague’s practice to come forward, after new data showed that the number of GPs suspended amid professional concerns almost halved last year.
NCAS has suggested that the sharp decline - from 84 GPs in 2010/11 to just 45 in 2011/12 – may not be caused by fewer concerns that could affect patient safety, but by ongoing reorganisation of PCOs.
It said it was expecting that figures will go back to normal when the new commissioning bodies have become established.
The sharp drop marks a 46% year-on-year drop and reverses an upward trend that had lasted over the previous five years. It was also not mirrored among doctors in secondary care, where the equivalent process of ‘exclusion’ of doctors was stable.
The NCAS report says: ‘In contrast with exclusions, there was a sharp fall in the number of new suspension episodes in the GP sector in 2011/12, with a rise in the average duration of episodes concluded 44 weeks. Use of suspension may have been affected by the reorganisation of primary care trusts.’
NCAS said it would monitor developments to see if the trend was on-going or not, and in the meantime urged NHS managers and colleagues with concerns to come forward.
NCAS director Lynn Hugo said: ‘We will be monitoring this over the next twelve months to see if this is an on-going trend. It’s important for NHS managers and their colleagues who have concerns about a GP’s practice to call us as soon as possible. If they are unsure of who is responsible for managing the concern, we will point them in the right direction.’
A DH spokesperson said: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that the NHS reforms are effecting the ability of PCTs to deal with issues of poor performance. The NHS has a legal duty to ensure that doctors and dentists remain fit to practice.’
NCAS advises NHS organisations on professional concerns over doctors, dentists and pharmacists and also makes formal assessment of doctors. It receives around 900 referrals a year. NCAS is set to be assumed by the NHS LA from 1 April 2013 as an operating division.