The UK Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) tries to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, service users and the public by raising standards of regulation and voluntary registration of people working in health and care. They are an independent body, accountable to the UK Parliament.
In July 2014, the PSA audited all 75 of the cases that the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) had closed at the initial stages of its fitness to practise (FTP) process during the 12 month period from 1 June 2013 to 30 May 2014. The final verdict of the PSA’s audit seems devastating. Here is a short excerpt from the conclusions of its report:
The extent of the deficiencies we found in this audit (as set out in detail above) which related to failures across every aspect of the casework framework, as well as widespread failures to comply with the GCC’s own procedures, raises concern about the extent to which the public can have confidence in the GCC’s operation of its initial stages FTP process.
In summary, the particular areas of failures/weaknesses identified in our audit include:
- Ineffective screening on receipt of ‘complaints’ and inconsistent completion and updating of risk assessments
- Customer service issues, including failing to respond to/acknowledge correspondence promptly, failing to provide clear information about the FTP process and failing to provide updates about progress and outcomes within reasonable timeframes
- Inadequate investigation of cases through failures to gather or validate relevant evidence or to do so promptly – sometimes as a result of inconsistent and ineffective use of case plans and case reviews
- Deficiencies in the evaluation of information by decision-makers and weaknesses in the reasoning provided for decisions, including failures to address all the relevant allegations and/or reaching decisions on the basis of insufficient evidence
- Poor record keeping and various data protection breaches or potential breaches
- Ineffective systems for the sharing of relevant information between the Registration and FTP teams, leading to inappropriate action being taken in some cases
- Widespread non-compliance with internal guidance and procedures.
We have also concluded that the steps taken by the GCC, in particular the processes it introduced in its procedure manual in February had not at the time of the audit resulted in consistent improvement in the quality of its casework.
What does all of this mean?
The GCC’s website informs us that this organisation regulates all chiropractors in the UK to ensure the safety of patients undergoing chiropractic treatment. The GCC is an independent statutory body established by Parliament to regulate the chiropractic profession. We protect the health and safety of the public by ensuring high standards of practice in the chiropractic profession. The title of ‘chiropractor’ is protected by law and it is a criminal offence for anyone to describe themselves as any sort of chiropractor without being registered with the GCC. We check that all chiropractors are properly qualified and are fit to practise.
The conclusions of the PSA audit seem to indicate nothing less than this: the GCC is not fit for purpose!
I have often said that the regulation of nonsense must inevitably result in nonsense – but I did not expect to get a confirmation from the GCC in this fashion.