Give ’em enough rope – how regulatory bodies are damaging patient care

I have written before about Suffolk GP Federation’s policy of being open and transparent  regarding significant events and issues that we come across.

It’s interesting to note that organisations advising us to be open are less transparent themselves when they make much larger errors (e.g. the recent issue involving all patients on the DoLS needing to be referred to the coroner). I don’t recall anybody from NHS England or the Department of Justice apologising for the extra work and distress caused to patients and staff.

At a recent talk by MDDUS we were advised that there are nearly 20 monitoring bodies that a patient can complain to about a GP. As a Federation we have reported issues regarding safeguarding, prescribing, information governance and fraud to the appropriate authorities. We have taken seriously any failings and have introduced appropriate steps to address them. We have also shared our learning widely with practices and the CCG.

I’m sure these incidents are not unique to us, but that other organisations are just not reporting them because of the significant amount of form filling involved. This is a time consuming, box ticking exercise to address somebody else’s agenda.  It does nothing to improve patient safety.

The fault lies at the door of the regulatory bodies. When reporting such instances there is very little feeling of this being a ‘no blame culture’. Indeed, the feeling is more of being a naughty schoolboy.

The recent case of the paediatrician accused of manslaughter and subsequently struck off by the GMC has been widely reported. There has been much correspondence in the professional magazines. It clearly shows a regulatory organisation which enjoys neither the confidence of the patients it purports to be looking after or the doctors it is supposedly supporting.

Their suggestions leave frontline clinicians exposed due to inadequate staffing and financial resourcing. We are made to take personal responsibility for system failings. The idea by the GMC that anybody coming on shift who feels uncomfortable should be flagging this up, filling in yet another form, shows how far removed they are from real life in the NHS.

Personally, I also don’t believe our defence unions go far enough to support us. We are always judged against best practice in a perfect world, which we know is not the case.

Only when the last doctor leaves, retires or is struck off will the GMC learn that empty chairs do nothing for patient care.