Professor Steve Field has not always been the most popular GPs among his peers, but no one can deny his power to make or break GP practices.
It has been a relatively quiet year for Professor Field, however. There have been no new remarks to alienate the profession – if anything, changes to the CQC inspection process have made things a little easier for practices – although not enough to actually make a positive difference.
The CQC has even implemented a review that has been welcomed by GPs. Its report into online GP providers revealed that 43% of online prescribers are ‘unsafe’. And Professor Field says it shows that the CQC is ‘taking an active role in making sure that people get the best possible primary care, regardless of how it is delivered’. With the BMA’s GP clinical prescribing lead likening online prescribing to the ‘wild west’, Professor Field has hit on a significant concern for the profession.
Starting in August 2017, the CQC began reviewing 20 local systems, looking at hospitals, community services, ambulance services, care homes and residential care services, as well as GP practices, and how they care for people aged 65 and older. There has even been an olive branch to the profession. He tells Pulse: ‘It was wonderful to see the key role that some GPs played, not just providing great care but also leading change.’
He is planning for the future. The CQC will take on ‘a broader view beyond individual providers’, he tells Pulse, ‘looking at commissioning, as well as provision, in a local system’, with a special focus on the prison system ‘to encourage improvement of care for some of the most vulnerable people in society’.
This work is taking over his career. He’s given up his position as a practising GP at Bellevue Medical Centre in Birmingham ‘due to the amount of work we have been doing on local system reviews’.
He says: ‘I have been focusing on making sure we get this important new approach right, where we take a wider view of the patient experience across a local health and care system.’
But perhaps the chief inspector should refrain from shifting focus too quickly. After all, speaking at a conference late last year, he admitted that the CQC is ‘not as consistent’ as it should be with some practices inspected with more leniency than others. Meanwhile, the CQC has faced accusations of bias in its practice inspections after a Pulse analysis revealed that at least 60% of partners in ‘inadequate’ practices are BME.
The GP inspectors might need some inspection of their own.
Has the final say on what’s good or bad about practices, online providers, and urgent and out-of-hours providers
What he says:
‘I care deeply about people and tackling the inequalities that they can face when they are in need of high-quality, compassionate care’
A West Bromwich Albion FC fan for 56 years, he firmly believes the Championship title belongs to ’the Baggies’ this season