Doctors raise concerns via helpline

Doctors’ phone line triggers ‘serious’ GMC inquiries

Whistle-blowing helpline has received nearly 200 calls since December

A whistle-blowing helpline arrange by the UK’s regulator of doctors two months ago has caused 12 investigations into allegations of a “very serious” nature.

Figures seen by the BBC show the confidential phone line has had 187 calls since its launch.

One in seven was regarded as serious enough for the final Medical Council (GMC) to make further inquiries.

Most of the callers were doctors but some members of the general public rang too.

The 12 “very serious” investigations involve complaints which suggest a physician will not be fit to practise and there’s a risk to patient safety.

The phone calls have also triggered four less serious inquiries – these are allegations which can justify action by the regulator in the event that they were portion of a much wider pattern of outrage a few doctor.

The GMC is thinking about information in seven other cases which have come to light throughout the confidential phone line. Four cases were looked into after which closed.

Relatively high numbers of calls were from the north-west of britain, the West Midlands and London.

The GMC launched its helpline in December, to enable doctors to boost serious concerns about patient safety in the event that they felt unable to take action locally.

Every doctor within the UK was sent new guidance in March last year, making it clear they had knowledgeable duty to behave to offer protection to patients’ interests always.

The chief executive of the GMC, Niall Dickson, said: “We’ve not engaged in a large publicity campaign around this line, so the response shows there’s a need for this service.

“A few of the doctors were phoning up with serious concerns, which has ended in ongoing investigations. We’re more than happy that concerns are reaching us – it’s a technique of pursuing areas where patients can be in peril.

“There are situations where doctors genuinely feel intimidated by our surroundings they’re in and do not feel they’re able to raise concerns. That’s something which we, the health service and the profession more generally need to tackle.

“We’ve to maneuver to a situation where this is absolutely routine for professionals to position patient safety first at every opportunity – even though this suggests raising concern a couple of more senior colleague.”

Advice and support

Some of the 187 helpline calls were directed elsewhere – to the nurses’ regulator, as an example – or they involved more general inquiries, akin to doctors wishing to pay their registration fees.

The question of why concerns about poor care within the NHS don’t always get flagged up or handled has been a topic because the Francis report into the flaws at Mid-Staffordshire trust was published a fortnight ago.

The GMC phone line has received 43 calls since then – this doesn’t represent a surge.

The regulator is to listen to four “fitness to practise” cases involving doctors from Mid-Staffordshire. The primary of those is because of begin next month.

There are various avenues for reporting poor care.

A free whistle-blowing helpline covering concerns in regards to the NHS and the social care sector was launched by the former Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, in January last year. The charity Mencap has a 3-year contract worth £480,000 to run the road.

It has had 1,325 calls since then – and 105 requests for advice by email. It gives advice and support to individuals, employers and trade unions.

The Patients Association receives greater than 8,000 calls on its helpline yearly.

Patients and members of staff may ring the most important regulator of NHS and social care organisations in England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC says it received around 600 calls a month last year which it classified as “genuine concerns” from whistle-blowing staff.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) launched a phone line to support whistle-blowing nurses in 2009. It received around two calls per week in its first year.

Neighbourhood Watch to assist elderly

Neighbourhood Watch groups could help with elderly care

Ministers say more collaboration is wanted between the state and voluntary groups

Neighbourhood Watch groups in England may supply companionship and practical help for pensioners living alone, under an concept being considered.

Social care minister Norman Lamb said many older people were living “very lonely lives”, without family support.

While professional care remained vital, something extra was needed, he said.

The “principle of neighbourliness” might be extended to handle the “extraordinary challenge” presented by an ageing society, he told the BBC.

There are 173,000 Neighbourhood Watch groups in England and Wales, a scheme which started within the 1980s to encourage local residents to report suspicious behaviour of their area and to assist prevent burglaries.

Mr Lamb said the pressures at the care system were only going to extend, with the collection of people living beyond 80 set to double by 2030 and lots of unable to rely upon regular family help.

‘Miserable life’

Loneliness and isolation damaged people’s physical and mental health and made people depending on the state plenty sooner than they had to be, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“When you have care needs and also you don’t see anyone day-to-day, week-to-week, and all you’ve is a care worker coming in for a completely short time period to do your essential feeding and washing, it may be a gorgeous miserable life.

“As a society, we’ve a responsibility take into consideration this challenge.”

Mr Lamb said he was not trying to undermine the “essential” work of care professionals but to present a different dimension to aid people’s quality of life.

“Care isn’t enough by itself. We need to ask the basic question what supplies a great life.

“That’s about companionship, friendship, neighbourliness. As our extended families have dispersed around the country and often well past, inadvertently we have now ended up with very lots of people living very lonely lives.”

‘Looking out’

Greater “collaboration” was needed between the state and voluntary bodies sooner or later, he added, and Neighbourhood Watch could play a valuable role in supplementing support the previous.

“i would like a discussion about this. We can come forward with further plans inside the non too distant future.

“At its heart, the truth that we’ve this (neighbourhood) movement, let’s just apply that neighbourliness principle to looking for elderly people on our roads who might actually be all alone but nobody will be desirous about.”

Community groups would have to apply for “care status” from their local authorities in the event that they desired to provide statutory services.

But ministers have said they need to not be “prescriptive” about who provides basic assistance and existing relationships need to be built upon, raising the possibility of neighbours helping with tasks reminiscent of feeding.

Ministers want more community solutions in care provision and inside the recent Spending Review, the federal government gave a £2bn slice of the social care budget to councils to encourage closer working with the NHS.

‘Specialist skills’

The Neighbourhood Watch and residential Watch Network said it was fascinated by becoming concerned. “It’s important for groups of members to concentrate on the vulnerable people of their communities,” its chairman Jim Madden told the Daily Telegraph.

But Age UK said the presence of a “friendly face”, however welcome, couldn’t make up for an absence of resources inside the care budget.

“Good neighbours could make a genuine difference but are not any substitute for a well-supported care system which helps those with a variety of care needs, including everyday tasks comparable to washing and dressing,” said its director general Michelle Mitchell.

“Often helping older individuals with these tasks can require specialist skills similar to manual handling in order that older persons are treated safely with sensitivity and dignity.

“Neighbours can go to this point, but we must stand up to the truth of our ageing population and the govt must decide to funding the pro care and support they wish.”