Prof Steve Field named chief inspector of GPs

Prof Steve Field Steve Field is the new chief inspector of GPs

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The new chief inspector of GPs in England has been named as Prof Steve Field.

The former chair of the Royal College of GPs has been closely associated with the coalition's controversial health reforms.

The chief inspector is part of a new inspection regime being set up by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The British Medical Association hopes the new role will not add another layer of regulation and paperwork.

In his new post, Prof Field will oversee the quality of care provided by GP surgeries across England.

It is part of a new system being put in place by the CQC which will include inspections and a rating system allowing patients to compare the quality of care being offered by different GP practices.

Prof Field told the BBC that ensuring consistently good care across the country would be the most important part of his role.

"The focus has been on hospitals over the last few years, but what we want to do is to make sure everyone in England gets the best care possible".

He was reluctant to be drawn on how great the variation might be between practices, but said: "If they are good we will encourage them to do even better. But we'll also make sure that those that are not up to scratch have the opportunity to improve, and if they don't we can take action".

Controversial figure

For family doctors across the UK, Prof Field is well known from his time as chairman of their professional organisation.

When he was at the Royal College of GPs he oversaw the rewriting of the curriculum for doctors wanting to train in general practice.

For some doctors he is a controversial figure because of his association with the coalition's controversial changes to the NHS in England.

In 2011 the government was forced to put its Health Bill on hold during its progress through Parliament because of intense opposition from many doctors.

Prof Field chaired the review panel appointed by the government to look at the concerns which had been raised.

He subsequently became deputy medical director at the new organisation NHS England.

The Patients Association has made clear it would like to see greater scrutiny of GP services. In a report last year it pointed out that 47% of complaints against doctors to the GMC were about family doctors.

The British Medical Association has said it was happy to work with the new role to improve care for patients, but wants to see it fully integrated into the existing regulation of the CQC so it does not add to paperwork.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Members of the public want to know, just like they want to know how good their local school is, they'd like to know how good their local GP practice is and to do that we need a team led by someone with real credibility who's going to go and look at 8,000 GP practices across England and actually tell the public how good their practice is and if it isn't good enough, make sure something is done about it.

"I think the biggest change that people will notice is that where there are GP surgeries that are not doing as well as they should be, something will happen.

"We'll be able to identify the surgery down the road that is outstanding and people will be able to learn from each other and standards will start to go up."

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