Plans to create “responsible officers” to liaise between trusts and regulators will increase NHS staffing costs, locum agencies are warning.
The Department of Health has announced it wants all trusts and secondary care locum agencies to appoint a responsible officer to liaise with the General Medical Council and check doctors’ skills are up to date.
But this would force locum agencies to recruit medical experts and pass on the costs to hospitals, says the UK’s largest health and social care agency.
Healthcare Locums executive vice chair Kate Bleasdale said: “We have a general medical consultant but I don’t think he has the knowledge to know whether a psychiatrist has the correct clinical skills. Unless it’s a meaningless box-ticking exercise we will have to pass on that cost.”
Ms Bleasdale said smaller agencies “simply could not afford to fund the process.” She said trusts will not face the same problems as their responsible officers are likely to be medical directors who are able to call on the advice of senior colleagues.
The DH document said the issue had “polarised” experts and was the most divisive aspect of the proposals. It also states that locum agencies should prove they have good clinical governance arrangements before being allowed to make recommendations to the GMC on the doctors they supply.
More than 70 respondents to the consultation thought locum agencies’ clinical governance arrangements should be checked by the Care Quality Commission.
Royal College of GPs chair Steve Field said a debate was needed on how the responsible officer scheme would be funded, for example whether the GMC should pay for it out of doctors’ registration fees.
He was also unsure how medical directors could carry out the responsible officer role on top of existing duties.