GP suspensions from work last around twice as long as those in the hospital and community sector, new NCAS figures show.
General medical or dental practitioners were suspended or excluded for an average of 39 weeks, compared to just 21 weeks for hospital and community (H&C) practitioners, in the year to September 2010. Findings also show two-thirds of GP suspensions involve the regulator (GMC or GDC) compared with only a quarter in H&C cases. Regulator involvement tends to lengthen the time to resolution, NCAS notes.
But the NCAS figures show that, in the past five years, suspension and exclusion episodes amongst GP and H&C doctors have been getting steadily shorter.
Professor Alastair Scotland, Director of NCAS, said: “Our figures suggest that concerns about professional practice are late in coming forward in primary care. Late recognition increases the likelihood of regulatory action and therefore lengthens the time for resolution. This is too late to assist the practitioner and means that patients are at greater risk of harm.
“Our experience has shown that the earlier concerns come forward and NCAS can be involved, the more readily safe practice can be restored”.
The NCAS report highlighted the high cost of exclusions. In the year to September 2010 in England an estimated 6,500 practitioner working weeks were lost through exclusion or suspension at a cost to the NHS estimated to be in excess of £20 million.