Gossip 'nightmare' for GP regulation changes

How to convert 'soft' complaints about GPs into 'hard information' is 'my current nightmare', according to the chairwoman of a regulation White Paper implementation group.

Professor Jenny Simpson, who is also chief executive of the British Association of Medical Managers (BAMM) and a former paediatrician, was speaking to a BAMM conference in London last month.

She said the earliest that regulation change would take place would be spring 2008. But she added that there was much work still to do and urged GPs to take part by contributing to a website to be set up.

Professor Simpson explained that there were four main strands to White Paper implementation and she was responsible for tackling concerns locally.

CMO for England Sir Liam Donaldson is responsible for revalidation and the other two areas are tackling concerns nationally and the health of healthcare professionals.

Professor Simpson explained that she had distilled her responsibility into a series of areas including GMC affiliates, responsible officers, the performers' list, raising concerns and managing information, clinical governance and death certification.

She described raising concerns and managing information as her current nightmare.

'The reason why it's giving me nightmares is that it's actually the crux of what I'm trying to struggle with. What is the status of the soft information that everybody knows?'

She talked about the Bristol inquiry, which was set up following the death of 29 babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1984 and 1995, and how it confirmed suspicions but there had been no way of converting them into meaningful information.

'There just wasn't a way of converting what was known into hard information. If we don't actually address that we will have failed unless we have a mechanism of getting that information and using it effectively,' she added.

'It's also quite wrong to have some sort of malicious gossip stacked up against a doctor who is performing extremely well.'

Professor Simpson gave as an example 'lots' of complaints against psychiatrists by patients with mental health problems because of the very nature of their work. 'We need to come up with a solution that gives us a way of using soft information without damaging innocent doctors,' she said.

Professor Simpson assured the audience that the group looking at the problem was 'very good' and that deliberations would be open.

Later Dr Martin Shelly, chairman of the NHS Clinical Governance Support Team's expert group on assuring the quality of medical appraisal, gave an example of a doctor turning up for work on a Monday morning drunk as an example of 'soft information'.

neil.durham@haymarket.com.

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