Francis report 'must not trigger rising bureaucracy'

The government must avoid the 'huge elephant trap' of imposing excessive bureaucracy and regulation in response to the Francis report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned.

Jeremy Hunt: government must avoid 'elephant trap' of bureaucracy
Jeremy Hunt: government must avoid 'elephant trap' of bureaucracy

But GP leaders called for more detail after reports that Mr Hunt was considering appointing a new chief inspector for primary care.

Speaking at the Reform think tank on Tuesday, the health secretary said: ‘We must avoid a huge elephant trap: to think care and compassion can be commanded from on high either by regulators or politicians.

‘Endless boxes to tick, cumbersome bureaucracy and burdensome regulations are a big part of the problem – they cannot be the solution.’

Examples of ‘madness’ in the NHS at the moment included GPs being forced to spend hours chasing ‘information that should be readily available’ – blood tests, X-ray results and patient letters.

Mr Hunt said he had asked NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar to investigate how national NHS organisations could work together on joint inspection and better sharing of information, to ‘improve clinical outcomes and free up more time to care’.

He said: ‘The objective of this work is to see if it’s possible to reduce bureaucratic burdens by one-third.

‘He will report his early findings in March to inform our initial response to the Francis inquiry.

‘And in order to make sure we learn the right lessons from Francis and not the wrong ones, I intend to follow a clear principle. If a bureaucratic burden must be added, it must be outweighed by others being taken away.’

The Guardian reported that Mr Hunt said plans to create a new chief inspector of hospitals could be extended to other parts of the NHS including primary care.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey called for more detail and warned that practices were already among the most heavily inspected parts of the NHS.

‘We are reviewed and inspected by countless people at the moment, yet we have among the lowest risk in the health service.’

He listed QOF reviews, prescribing reviews, contract monitoring, CQC checks, revalidation and other inspections.

Mr Hunt made clear in the speech that regulation could never entirely prevent poor care. ‘Let me finish with words from TS Eliot we should not forget, when he said: "It is impossible to design a system so perfect that no one needs to be good.".’

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