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The chief inspector of general practice has sticking power. Despite the BMA calling for his resignation and the college he once chaired saying he has ‘lost the confidence of GPs’, Professor Field has not been handed his P45.
Instead he has unstinting support from health secretary Jeremy Hunt who, despite unrest in the NHS over the regulator’s approach, has stood by his man.
Professor Field’s CQC inspectors have found the majority of GP practices so far to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, in what is a good news story for general practice.
Professor Field says that he has been pleased by finding so many examples of good care. He says: ‘It has been fantastic finding so many examples of outstanding care in GP surgeries. It is sad that we are still finding inadequate practice but encouraging that the vast majority are improving.’
But all of this work has been undermined by some rather impolitic language. The Birmingham GP caused a furore last year by telling the Daily Mail that general practice had ‘failed as a profession’ and that he was ‘ashamed’ to be a GP at times because of the care offered by some practices. He had to justify his comments during an awkward hearing of the House of Commons Health Committee, next to the grim-faced GPC and RCGP chairs Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Dr Maureen Baker.
And Professor Field’s inspection regime has had its wings clipped. As the Government phases out CQC funding, inspections for good practices will only happen every five years, although GP practices will still have to stomach a six-fold rise in CQC fees over the next couple of years – a move that is currently the subject of legal action by the General Practitioners Defence Fund.
Professor Field – who also looks at care provided by prisons, digital providers, emergency care, dental care and integrated health and social care – is keen to implement his new ‘revised regulatory approach’.
He says: ‘I am very optimistic about the future. GPs have a central role in our NHS and life will become easier as we all begin to work in larger multi-professional teams. The way forward has to be working in a more joined up and integrated way with our hospital and social care colleagues.’
Why influential: GP with the power to close down your practice
Surprising fact: Once played football on the same team as Bobby Moore