National plan for standard GPSI accreditation

Appointment of GPSIs is set to become more complex, with a system of formal accreditation including nationally-agreed frameworks to be put in place.

Health minister Andy Burnham announced guidance last week that sets out a rigorous structure for GPSI accreditation.

The scheme is intended to bring national consistency for GPSIs, but it will be managed at a local level by primary care organisations (PCOs).

PCTs will have to establish accreditation boards including an LMC representative or a representative from the RCGP, a senior commissioner, a senior clinician in the relevant area and a lay person. The board will examine GPs’ applications, interview them and even interview specialist referees.

GPs will only be considered for GPSI status if they have completed a course using an education framework agreed by the RCGP.

If commissioned, the GPSI will be subject to follow-up assessment visits and have to apply for re-accreditation every three years at least.

Professor Nigel Sparrow, Nottingham GP and vice-chairman of the RCGP, said: ‘It will mean, hopefully, there will be a process that allows national standards.

‘It’s not about GPs being specialists, but using their generalist skills in a specialist setting.’

The process should ensure patient safety and appropriate use of GPSIs, he added.

Somerset GP Dr Steve Holmes, chairman of the National Association of Primary Care Educators, said: ‘The concept sounds sensible to me.’

Ensuring that peers from primary and secondary care approve of a GPSI candidate would help a service run smoothly, Dr Holmes explained.

But Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of the Wessex LMCs, said: ‘It is quite different to what is there at the moment, because you can just apply for the job.

‘There are some advantages there, but it sounds like quite a lot of bureaucracy.’

Regulation could reduce the number of doctors seeking GPSI accreditation, he added.

‘The problem that I have with that is that it is accredited by PCOs, so you may not get consistency.’

Additionally, without proper funding, some PCOs may be unable to carry out accreditations, said Dr Watson.

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