Exclusive: Key post-Shipman reform 'dropped'

DoH set to abandon plan to keep records of concerns raised about doctors.

One of the most controversial proposals of the new post-Shipman penal system for doctors looks set to be dropped.

Recording concerns about fitness to practise, the equivalent of a police caution, may never see the light of day.

The two GMC affiliate pilot schemes in Yorkshire and London have been asked to assess whether recording concerns adds any value.

'I hope the pilots will confirm they bring no added value and that they will be abandoned,' said Dr Stephanie Bown, a member of the DoH working group on responsible officers (ROs) and director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society (MPS).

'There are many arguments for saying that they would undermine the principles of early identification of the problems for the purpose of remediation, especially if the alternative to accepting a recorded concern is referral to the GMC,' said Dr Bown.

Members of the working group are understood to have raised a 'strong voice' about recorded concerns.

Recorded concerns would have been issued by the PCT responsible officer with agreement of the regional GMC affiliate and could stay on a doctor's record indefinitely. They would only be removed after problems were addressed. This would give PCT medical directors unprecedented powers over what is on a GP's performance record.

The timetable for the new regulatory measures now looks set to slip. GPs were supposed to relate to a RO from April 2009 but secondary legislation setting out the new duties of the officers has yet to be passed.

The GMC, which will hold a UK-wide list of recorded concerns for locums who have no employer or PCT contract, confirmed that it is nowhere near compiling such a list yet.

Major issues remain over the funding of the new system. The DoH says that PCTs must meet costs estimated at between £3.1 million and £16.7 million out of existing budgets.

But locums may have to contribute to the costs of their local RO out of their own pockets.

A DoH document on ROs explains: 'Where an RO is employed by another organisation, organisations or individual doctors may be required to contribute to the cost of providing the RO.'

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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