A fixture near the top of Pulse’s Power 50 and described in last year’s list as something of a ‘Marmite figure’, Professor Steve Field has probably not made himself any more popular with his latest appointment as England’s first chief inspector of general practice.
As one of the GPs who nominated him said: ‘He has the tools to undermine or assist development of general practice. Will he act wisely?
But many have welcomed having someone with a keen understanding of general practice at the heart of the CQC.
He still works one day a week as a GP in Birmingham – and has a rigorous academic approach honed at the Universities of Birmingham, Warwick and Harvard.
He left the RCGP as chair in 2010 and soon after led the Government’s NHS reforms ‘listening exercise’. This marked him out as a ‘coalition man’ for some, but he has made a contribution to helping more vulnerable groups in his role as deputy medical director at NHS England.
Over the past couple of years he has given his support for the removal of practice boundaries (he described GP resistance as ‘complete bollocks’) and during the inflamed debate on GP out-of-hours care in the spring, took to his Twitter account to announce that GPs ‘should never have given up responsibility’ in the first place.
Of the past year, he says: ‘The biggest challenge for me was making the decision to leave NHS England for my new role at the CQC. I felt I was just starting to make a difference in my old role and I was enjoying it, but I was interested in taking on a strong, high profile lead to improve quality in general practice.’
He says that he is looking forward to returning to centre stage, and that he will be working to ensure ‘high quality GPs are available to patients across the whole of the country’, including developing a new ratings system for practices. He adds: ‘General practice should be the jewel in the NHS crown and we must fund it appropriately.’