England’s 152 PCTs remain separate legal entities, but have grouped into around 50 clusters to share staff and cut costs.
But clustering has stripped PCTs of staff with experience of handling performance issues, according to GPC contracts and performance subcommittee chairman Dr John Canning.
As a result, when complaints about GPs arise the reaction is increasingly to ‘suspend first and ask questions later’, he warned.
‘Anytime there is a reorganisation of the NHS, there is a loss of corporate memory about how to do things safely,’ Dr Canning said.
‘Decisions are not as clear and safe and consistent as they should be. New people have been catapulted into jobs.’
He urged PCT clusters to consider whether their immediate response was reasonable and proportionate when suspicions of poor performance or questions over a doctor’s behaviour arose.
‘Increasingly there is an attitude of suspend first, ask questions later,’ he said.
‘This is bad for the individual, it has a psychological effect on the individual and puts pressure on their practice, which has to manage without them.
‘It may be the right thing to do in some cases, but it should not be the immediate response.’