Doctors to face regular checks as performance fears are raised

 

More than 1,000 doctors in England could be putting patients at risk after serious concerns about their competence were raised by their NHS Trust, private hospital or employer.

Nearly 7,000 doctors – one in 25 of all those practising – gave cause for concern for reasons ranging from being late for clinics to lacking the skills to do their job, according to a government-commissioned survey.

The figures were disclosed as Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, announced the launch of the first scheme in the world to impose regular checks on doctors to ensure they are up to the job.

As a condition of retaining their licence to practice all doctors will be subject, from next year, to annual appraisals of their performance, dubbed MOTs for the medical profession. These will be backed by five-yearly checks, called "revalidation".

The checks will supplement existing measures for identifying poorly performing doctors through complaints to the NHS. The idea is to catch problems early before they cause harm.

The survey of all 650 NHS trusts, locum agencies, private health organisations and other bodies, conducted by the Department of Health's Revalidation Support Team in December 2011, found there were concerns about the performance of 6,800, or 4.1 per cent, of doctors in England.

Of these, most of the doctors (4,000, or 2.4 per cent) had prompted low-level concerns over issues such as lateness; 1,600 (1 per cent) had prompted medium-level concerns relating to behaviour such as rudeness to patients; and 1,200 (0.7 per cent) had prompted high-level concerns over problems such as alcoholism or a lack of skills.

Most cases could be dealt with through advice, extra training and monitoring. Doctors giving rise to high-level concerns would be stopped from working while being treated, or retrained. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, which will run the scheme, said it was a "historic moment" and the "biggest change in medical regulation for 150 years." He added: "Most patients probably think we have a system like this already. They would not board an aircraft where the last check on the pilot was 20 years ago but that is the level of assurance we have in medicine."

It has taken 12 years of hard negotiating between doctors' leaders, the GMC and the Government to agree the scheme. BMA leaders protested that it was unfair, bureaucratic and would neglect those who fell short.

Regular checks for doctors were first recommended three decades ago but it was the Bristol children's heart surgery scandal in 2000 that gave impetus to the idea. The report of the inquiry into the worst scandal in the NHS's history described how babies died because surgeons were operating beyond their competence.

The plans were derailed in 2005 by Dame Janet Smith, chair of the Shipman inquiry, who said they were based on "expediency rather than principle" after they were watered down to meet the BMA's objections.

Mr Dickson called the new scheme "meaningful and robust and not over-bureaucratic". Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, admitted it would not be perfect and would be difficult to implement, but he said: "It is the job of every doctor to describe what they do and define how well they do it.

Mr Hunt said: "Making sure [doctors] are up to speed with the latest treatments and technologies will help them save [more lives]."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own