Chris Lancelot: Red tape and regulations are rotting the NHS

Last week, I wrote about Parkinson's third law: 'Growth leads to complexity, complexity to decay', and remarked on how relevant it is to the massively inefficient NHS.

As if on cue, two news items leapt out confirming this. The first was about the problems facing paediatric surgeons.

Because of their specialism, many travel all over the country to operate. However, they are hindered from working efficiently because every time they come to a new trust they have to undergo a fresh Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, which can take six weeks. In the meantime they are not allowed to work there with children.

The second report described how a doctor or nurse could be cleared of professional misconduct by the GMC or the NMC - yet still be prevented from working because the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) might take a different view of the same case. Worse - there are only limited rights of appeal against ISA decisions.

You couldn't make it up, could you?

Why has the government become so paranoid about professional standards? Not content with triple jeopardy it now wants to subject us to quadruple jeopardy (GMC regulation, criminal law, civil law and the ISA) - presumably 'to protect patients'.

Why isn't a GMC hearing enough? Has it not occurred to the government that quadruple jeopardy is both pointlessly complex and manifestly unjust - especially as court cases can drag on for years, leaving doctors suspended, or alternatively unemployable while under investigation?

What clueless apparatchik dreamed up the tortuous regulations under which CRB checks must be performed from scratch by each new employer? These checks were intended to prevent danger to children, but instead have produced exactly the opposite effect, delaying their access to surgery.

Why can't a professional receive just one CRB check, then be given either a 'CRB passport' or alternatively a website reference number so that each and any new employer can view their credentials, instantly? Or is that too obvious?

As Parkinson said, complexity leads to decay. The government urgently needs to learn this lesson before it gums up the NHS completely.

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