After stints as chair of the RCGP and the panel that reviewed the Government’s health reforms, Professor Steve Field is used to tackling difficult issues. But his latest role as CQC chief inspector has really put him in the firing line.
The pilot stage of the new inspection system started in April and is being tested in 200 practices before an official launch next month, with GPs included in all inspection teams and a new set of 11 ‘fundamental’ standards.
But it immediately run into problems with reports of untrained inspectors being sent on practice visits and the LMCs Conference voting to ‘vehemently oppose’ his plans for an ‘Ofsted-style’ rating system.
Professor Field agrees there are still many issues to sort out, but he says that the CQC is making progress. He says: ‘GPs should not fear the inspection. From October much of what we’re doing will be celebrating general practice.’
But GPs have good cause for concern. The results of the first 1,000 practice inspections were overseen by Professor Field in January, resulting in reports of ‘maggot infested’ surgeries and an immediate furore among GPs.
This has left Professor Field facing little support from the profession and sometimes ‘personal attacks’ over the new regulation process.
He knew it would not be an easy job, but readily admits it has been ‘one of the most difficult things’ he has done. He says it is almost a relief on a Friday morning when he gets back to his practice to see patients, a part of his job he still enjoys the most.
‘When people see what we’re really doing in detail, they will realise that we will be highlighting important issues, such as premises. [But] what cannot be got away from is that there are a small number of practices who are not providing good care for patients,’ he says.
Professor Field still chairs the health inclusion board which this year got £10m from the Government to provide care for homeless people. He says: ‘My drive has always been to make sure everyone gets high quality care no matter who or where they are.’