Chris Lancelot on... Regulating primary care

There's going to be a new Care Quality Commission to regulate primary care.

The government wants it to inspect practices and publish details of individual GPs' performances, with tough new sanctions for poor-quality practitioners who fail to improve.

Leading figures at the Healthcare Commission have been concerned about primary care standards for some time. They believe that regulating GPs is a top priority and claim that nationwide we make hundreds of mistakes every day, with prescribing errors occurring in one in 10 consultations.

Do you feel threatened by all this? I don't. What an opportunity for general practice. For years we GPs have been accused of being lazy, overpaid and incompetent.

Indeed, not four years ago the DoH had such a low opinion of our abilities that it predicted our average score in the quality framework would be a mere 770 (and we all know what happened next).

Of course there are some black sheep among us: every profession has them. But the majority of us know our stuff. We work hard looking after our patients, and it's time the world (and especially the government) realised just how competent we are.

So I welcome the opportunity to show the Care Quality Commission's inspectors just how good primary care is.

I shall enjoy telling them about our practice's consistently high quality score and of our excellent access times. Perhaps those same investigators will take on board the lack of expenditure by the PCT on our buildings, the poor-quality hospital statistics with which we have to work and the huge amounts of medical time we waste attending PCT and practice-based commissioning meetings.

Then we could talk about the understaffed and lopsided district nurse teams, with too many managers and not enough workers. We could remind the inspectors of the constant attempts to dump more work on us, of the health service managers who get in our way rather than smooth our path and of their intrusive requests for ever more data.

We can discuss the inadequacies of the Choose and Book software that we are forced to use, the large amounts of GP time that it wastes and the ridiculous and unprofessional referral processes that are being inflicted upon us.

Yes, I welcome a thorough assessment of primary care.

Dr Lancelot is a GP from Lancashire. Email him at

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