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CQC retracts slur on married practice teams

24 February 2012

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has withdrawn an “offensive” remark claiming single-handed GPs who are related to their practice manager pose “patient safety risks”. 

The CQC’s Director of Operations Amanda Sherlock landed herself in hot water with members of the Family Doctor Association (FDA) while giving evidence to a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee last month (January 2012). 

She told committee members husband and wife teams in single-handed practices provide a risk to patient care and safety, as “they will not recognise bad practice nor challenge each other”. 

Following a “minor uproar” among FDA members, its chair mounted a campaign to get the remark taken off the record. 

In an email to Dr Peter Swinyard, Chief Executive of the CQC Cynthia Bower – who announced her resignation yesterday (22 February) – retracted Sherlock’s statement. 

“[The] CQC does not make any assumption about direct correlation between risk to patients and size of practice – or personal relationship between GPs and practice managers,” she said. 

“Our assessment of risk will be made on a case-by-case basis based on information that we hold about individual practices.” 

Speaking to MiP, Dr Swinyard decribed Sherlock’s comments as “offensive ” and a “spectacular own goal” but claimed he was now content with the retraction. 

On Bower’s resignation, he said it was “inevitable” in light of the highly critical published and soon-to-be published reports.

Dr Swinyard said he had “no idea” who would step forward as a candidate to replace Bower, as “it is the sort of job most sensible people would run away from”.

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“I am married to the senior partner – when the previous manager lasted less than a year having considerably lied on her CV I had just been made redundant stepped into help out and am here 5 years later. Not a single handed GP I admit but we are each other’s fiercest critics, I work harder than ever to make sure people understand I do the job not that I got the job because I am related to the senior partner. In fact one Dr did not realise until recently and he had worked here for a year! How dare this individual comment on the professionalism or otherwise of a whole group of people without meeting each of them. An absolute disgrace. It just further undermines the legitimacy of the CQC if they are going into  practices with preconcieved ideas especially such out of date ideas” – Name and address withheld

“Sweeping statements that include all are usually never valid or productive. I have worked in many practices as described by Sherlock and would have to say that the majority of them are as Sherlock describes” – Dean Thompson, London

“I am certainly offended by this remark that Husband/ wife team poses a risk to patient care as they will not challenge each other. In practice, it could be the other way. Any Practice Manager will not risk her job by challenging the Dr. Practices can recruit new Practice Manager anytime. Husband and wife teams have vested interest in the business – it is their lively hood and they work tirelessly to doubly ensure that they there is no risk to their patients, their care, which can also have an adverse effect on their surgery. They will and do challenge each other – if and when there is need as there is no risk of losing job – and continuity ensures that the raised challenges are addressed” – Name and address withheld

“Sherlock is the perfect manifestation of the know-nothing, metropolitan Guardianista gimpocracy that the previous & present socialist governments have allowed to grab control of the NHS. I manage, & my wife is the senior partner of a rural medical practice that has some of the lowest AAACM (any age any cause mortality) figures in North Yorkshire (already an area with lower than avergae AAACM rates). We also have the third lowest NHS footprint in N Yorkshire. How does Sherlock & her fellow Guardian readers think that rural general practices will be staffed if husband & wife teams are discouraged? Somehow I doubt that Fat Cat Private Healthcare PLC (obviously the DoHs preferred solution) will be too interested. I will be meeting Andrew Lansley on March 15th & will be raising these offensive attitudes from the CQC with him. Along with one or two other things….” – Clive West, North Yorkshire

“Yes. It shows a lack of understanding of how a practice works, or, indeed, what a PCT is supposed to be doing” – Name and address withheld