DH could impose GP ratings in response to Francis inquiry

The government has announced that GPs could face Ofsted-style ratings as part of its response to the Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

Jeremy Hunt: GPs could face new ratings system
Jeremy Hunt: GPs could face new ratings system

The CQC will be asked to draw up a ratings system for hospitals, starting this year, with care homes to follow.

Whether GP practices are rated is still ‘under consideration’, and the DH said there was no timescale for when a decision would be taken.

The DH response to the Francis inquiry comes less than a week after a Nuffield Trust review commissioned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt found that ratings would be easier to implement for GP practices than for hospitals

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament that hospitals would, like schools,  be rated outstanding, good, requiring improvement, or poor, and that any hospital receiving the lowest rating would face automatic action.

Mr Hunt also announced that the CQC would consult on whether a chief inspector of primary care should be created.

A new chief inspector of hospitals will be appointed who will provide oversight to the CQC’s inspections, assessments and ratings of providers.

The government’s Francis response also says that all CQC-registered providers of care will have a contractual duty of candour from 2013/14 to ‘be open and honest with patients when things go wrong with penalties for breaching the duty’.

It promises also to introduce a statutory duty of candour on providers to tell people if they believe treatment or care has caused death or serious injury. The scope of this duty is yet to be decided.

The government will consider the ‘appropriateness’ of criminal sanctions for healthcare staff ‘below board level’ when there is ‘wilful misleading of the public or regulators by individuals’ in breaching this new duty, but it accepts the danger of creating a culture of fear.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said that creating a culture of zero harm depended on staff feeling able to speak out freely about poor care.

‘Doctors already have clear professional duties to raise and act on concerns about patient safety,’ he said.

Dr Porter also urged any new inspection regime to focus on quality of care, not ratings.

‘It is vitally important that we do not allow a ratings system to create a misleading picture of any hospital department or GP practice,’ he said.

‘This would be unhelpful to patients, as well as demoralising to staff.’

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