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One more policy and I’ll scream



Suffering irony deficiency? Try this. Our practice manager is so consumed by CQC work she’s struggling to find time to manage the practice. Or this: our patient library is being dumped to free up shelf space for all the CQC paperwork. Or this: our CQC lead partner is so snowed under she’s having to cancel surgeries – and that’s before she even thinks about taking any time off for Post-CQC Stress Disorder. Hilarious, innit?

Yes, I have moaned about the CQC before. But I could moan about it forever in these columns, and in my spare time, and I still wouldn’t do it justice.

I can’t recall a time when we had so many cack-brained impositions distracting us from the day job, and the CQC is simply the worst of the lot.

At the last count, according to our practice manager, CQC work has generated 201 practice policies. I have no idea if this is true, but it doesn’t matter. It feels as though it is.

Prior to CQC, we rarely uttered the word ‘policy’. Now we talk of little else. We have an ‘Assistance Dogs Policy’, a ‘Blame-Free Culture Policy’, a ‘Co-operating with Other Providers Policy’ and, Holy Mother of God, a ‘Hand Hygiene Policy’ (10 pages, I kid you not, with pictures).

Our overarching policy seems to be to have as many policies as possible. Maybe we can build a wall of policies in the hope of keeping the CQC out.

Worse still, this insane fiasco is blurring the lines between what the CQC wants a happy-clappy primary care world to be like and what we’re actually obliged to do. It’s as though we’re working to two distinct contracts simultaneously.

For example, the CQC asks what we’re doing about patient involvement. Well, we were engaged in a Patient Reference Group DES until the suits decided, on the basis of an uncrossed ‘t’ and an undotted ‘i’ , not to pay a penny for any of the work involved. Despite that, we’ve continued to encourage patient involvement – suggesting, for example, that they might like to be involved in burning down the PCT offices.

And the Department of Health is playing a blinder with this CQC-generated contractual fuzziness.
Why pay GPs organisational QOF points when all that admin stuff is going to be CQCed to within an inch of its life anyway? Hence the plan to dump the QOF organisational domain: what once generated GP income, we now have to fund. What next? Making us pay for the pleasure of consulting?

The awful truth is that impositions like the CQC are destroying our souls and sapping our will to live. We use all our energy to dodge deadlines and tick boxes when we should be using it to scream in protest at the absurdity of it all, as any self-respecting profession would.

Which is tragic. We know that, in general practice, all the effort devoted to satisfying the CQC will not benefit a single patient. By taking up all our time, by paralysing our admin staff, by taking partners away from patients, by generating more meetings, by dissipating our energy, by destroying our morale and by undermining our professionalism, it will achieve the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do.

Which, frankly, is enough of an irony overload to make you want to venesect.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at tonycopperfield@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.