The CQC is to announce plans for Big Brother-style live-feed practice inspections, to be rolled out from April. In a bid to drive down costs in response to brutal budget cuts, and subject GPs to even more intense scrutiny, human inspectors are to be ditched and replaced with a CCTV system monitored by so-called ‘special inspectors’.
GPs who are seen to have performed a non-compliant act will receive an immediate ‘slap on the wrist’
Real-time video from the UK’s 9,800 practices will be streamed to locality-based hubs where ‘specials’ will analyse footage for evidence of non-compliance. Cameras will be fitted in consulting rooms, reception areas, admin offices and even toilets.
GPs who are seen to have performed a non-compliant act will receive an immediate ‘slap on the wrist,’ or SOT-W, from a spring-loaded rubber hand released from the ceiling. The enacting of a SOT-W is entirely at a special’s discretion. Repeated SOT-Ws may lead to a more severe SOT-A, for which offenders will be ordered by loudspeaker to remove their trousers and bend over.
Ophelia Collar, chief executive of the Initiative for Non-Human Inspections, told an exclusive panel of journalists that current inspections just weren’t detecting indiscretions at a rate sufficient to support Department of Health plans for the ‘ongoing and systematic defamation of UK general practice’. Ms Collar said ‘GPs clearly contravene guidance thousands of times a day but we need hard evidence. For instance, we know they’re web-browsing mid-consultation. But we can’t tell if they’re on GP Notebook, NICE Pathways or checking the results from last night’s Strictly.’
Unhygienic GPs will also find themselves in the initiative’s crosshairs, ‘We know that GPs wash their hands, but are they performing the well-evidenced and aseptic WHO handwash after each patient contact?’ With the new inspections, GPs may receive a SOT-W if a handwash does not last five minutes and involve six lather-rinse cycles using Cillit Bang. From 2017, handwashing will also be mandatory after nail-biting, nose-picking or crotch adjustment.
Asked if the initiative was yet another punitive measure levied on an already super-stressed GP workforce, Ms Collar stiffened, ‘I have no sympathy. Last time I saw my GP, all I wanted was a referral to a Harley Street herbalist who specialises in fibromyalgic bariatrics. The GP blatantly raised his eyebrows and tutted. That attitude will soon earn an SOT-A.’
Dr Tom Gillham is a GP in Hertfordshire and specialty doctor in A&E.