The Chief Inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission Steve Field has ‘lost the confidence of the profession’ following a number of ‘baffling, unfounded and scaremongering’ comments made about GPs in the national media, according to Royal College of General Practitioners Chair Dr Maureen Baker.Professor Field has been urged by Dr Baker to apologise to the nation’s family doctors – for making a number of unfounded media sound bites that have unfairly attacked the integrity of hard-working family doctors and ‘inevitably’ frightened patients.
Dr Baker said that repeated comments by Professor Field – a predecessor of hers as RCGP Chair – have led to unfounded concern among patients about the quality of care they receive, undermined the authority of his role, and damaged the concept of regulation among family doctors.
She added that they had shattered the morale of the nation’s GPs, who are already at a low ebb after more than a decade of chronic underfunding.
Last weekend, Professor Field, a practising GP, was quoted in the national media, talking about his role as CQC Chief Inspector, as saying: “I believe that we’ve failed as a profession.
“Sometimes we go into a surgery and it’s so bad we go to court the following day to close it down. As a practising GP, I’m quite ashamed that some of my colleagues are providing such poor care.
“In some practices there is no care, they’re absent. The practices are being run by a series of locums, with no leadership. I was shocked at how uncaring and poor some of the practices have been.”
He made these comments despite the fact that 86% of the practices inspected by the CQC, and given a rating, have been rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ overall.
On Tuesday he told the House of Commons Health Select Committee: “I’m doing this job on behalf of patients and the public…I’m ashamed of colleagues providing inadequate care.”
He went on to say that he could ‘understand the push-back from GPs’ about being regulated because they’re ‘not used to it’.
He added that: “The CQC puts backbone into performance management for general practice – systems failed to act before.”
However, Dr Baker said: “GPs are supportive in general of regulation, however the way Steve has gone about making misleading, unfounded and denigrating comments about the level of care that hard-working GPs provide to their patients is rapidly undermining the concept of regulation.
“He repeatedly makes sensationalist and non-evidenced claims about how bad the level of patient care is – which must inevitably scare patients.
“As the Chief Inspector of General Practice, Steve needs to be seen as being fair and impartial, but given the scaremongering comments he has made this is no longer the case. To be quite frank, he has now clearly lost the confidence of the profession.
“For someone in such a position of authority to disparage unfairly the work of our hard-working family doctors is inexcusable.
“It is difficult how Steve can turn his reputation around with the nation’s GPs, but he could make a start by issuing an immediate apology.
Dr Baker added: “As an organisation, we support the principle of the CQC having a regulatory role to ensure that practices do not fall below an acceptable standard of patient care. But we need the inspection regime to be headed up by a Chief Inspector who is seen as fair and impartial, and has the confidence of family doctors.”