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Trainees barred from practising after NHS admin error

Exclusive More than 40 GP trainees found themselves suspended from seeing patients for up to three weeks after it was discovered that NHS England had not ensured they were included on the performers list.

NHS England has said this was a ‘very rare’ event, and came about because primary care support services in the Thames Valley region failed to file the documentation for 30 trainees to join the the performers list.

The GPC has said that a similar situation occured in the West Midlands, where 14 trainees were affected.

As a result, practices were forced to cancel appointments, while trainees were also threatened with potentially being thrown off the training scheme for not doing enough clinical work.

GP leaders say that the majority of trainees in Thames Valley were suspended for weeks, although NHS England has said ‘many’ were reinstated after one week.

Trainees have three months in which to ensure they are registered on the performers list, a process that is still the responsibility of NHS England and usually managed by primary care support services (PCSS) providers.

But Pulse has already shown practice finances and administration have been disrupted by NHS England’s bid to make £40m savings, by cutting the support services they provide and reprocuring the contract with a single national supplier, Capita, which will take over in September.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs chief executive Dr Paul Roblin told Pulse that ‘around 30 trainees across Thames Valley’ had been affected by the suspension, and that, in most cases, they had been unable to see patients for two to three weeks.

He added: ‘This is NHS England’s responsibility – responsibility for the performers list lies with the medical director and the directors under him.’

Dr Jessica Harris, a GP in Oxford whose trainee originally spotted the problem, said: ‘The immediate impact was on our patients. The trainees had a full schedule of patients booked, so we had to cancel those appointments.

‘We had to find capacity to see more patients and at the same time find useful non-clinical work for the trainees to do.’

She added that the local area team ‘did all it could’ to rectify the problem when it was spotted.

However, she added: ‘Our trainee got a deanery email saying that the RCGP would not accept her doing more than two weeks non-clinical work, therefore if the problem was not resolved within a week, there was a strong possibility that they would suspend her training. She found this pretty stressful.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘It is unacceptable that failures in routine processes are stopping doctors from being available to engage in training and treat patients. On a personal level, these doctors are being left in limbo by delays in their registration. This will mean their training could be extended and a potential delay in their qualification date, which only compounds the GP workforce crisis.

‘We are aware of this issue emerging in the West Midlands too, and will be raising this formally with NHS England so they can rectify the issues swiftly and stop this happening again.’

A spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse: ‘On this very rare occasion, for a number of doctors the necessary documentation, to be included on the list, was not completed or not processed in time. Therefore, when this was established, these trainee doctors had to, temporarily, stop seeing patients.

‘NHS England recognises the disruption caused and worked with partners to quickly rectify the situation. In many cases, these young doctors were included on the MPL within a week. This incident is being treated by NHS England as a ‘significant event’… We are confident that such a situation will not happen again.’

In the Thames Valley, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs have already warned that primary care support functions have been ‘compromised’ by staff losses ahead of the new contract – which will see national performers list functions, GP registrations and medical records handled by a centre in Walsall.