‘Shipman passed – what are checks supposed to do?’

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New five-yearly checks on doctors have been criticised for rewarding GPs who fill out paperwork, rather than those who spend more time with patients.

Regular checks on doctors’ skills will start from December, with a decision taken every five years on whether they are fit to continue working.

Chief executive at the Bucks, Berks and Oxon Local Medical Committee, which represents all doctors in the region, Dr Paul Roblin, said that while checks are good, it is difficult to ascertain whether a doctor is fit to practise without sitting in with patients.

He said: “I don’t think the system is fit for purpose. Shipman (Harold) was passed for his allegations, so I’m not sure what these checks are supposed to pick up.

“I think they’re a big waste of time. I think as a nation, we tend to overreact. Politicians like to be seen to be doing something.

“Checks are a good thing and patients have a right to expect doctors to be performing at a high standard, but I don’t think this is the right way to go about it.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but this bureaucratic solution is not the way forward.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Every profession has its rogues and makes mistakes from time to time, but is there any evidence that the medical profession is any worse than others?

“Society often expects 100% reassurance, when it’s not always possible.”

Dr Roblin added these checks are not new to doctors, as they have been in the pipeline now for around five years. In his capacity as a GP, Dr Roblin has been preparing for them for two years.

He added: “I have to record every item of my continuing education, which I do everyday.

“So everytime I read a piece of medical literature, I have to record it which, if you do it properly, takes around five minutes each time.

“If you do that several times a day it all adds up –that’s time we could be spending with our patients. It’s ridiculously bureaucratic. It rewards those who are good at filling out forms, rather than those spending time with patients.”

In Buckinghamshire the checks will begin for the more senior doctors this December, with the first 20% of others being checked in April.

If doctors fail to satisfy the standards of the General Medical Council they would be prevented from practising.

Medical director at the Bucks and Oxon PCT, Dr Geoff Payne will be the responsible officer making recommendations to the Council as to which doctors should have their licence to practise reinstated, once the checks have been carried out.

He said: “We aim to check that doctors are up-to-date and fit to practise.

“Annual appraisals, which we have had in Bucks for 10 years will play a very important part in this. Appraisals help to reassure doctors they are doing a good job and show them where they need to improve.

“We then need to look into any complaints and the work the doctor has done. There are no exams testing the doctor’s knowledge however.”