HC Deb 08 May 1984 vol 59 cc723-4
8. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the operation of family practitioner committees.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I am not satisfied with the current performance of all family practitioner committees. We must raise the performance of all of them to the level that the best already achieve. We intend, through provisions in the Health and Social Security Bill, to improve their effectiveness to enable them to make a greater contribution to the planning and development of the family practitioner services.

Mr. Knox

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is a great deal of concern about the way in which family practitioner committees deal with complaints? Does he not think that the system is far too bureaucratic? Is he satisfied that the changes which he proposes will lead to an improvement in this respect?

Mr. Clarke

I agree that complaints should not be handled in a bureaucratic manner and that the family practitioner committees should hold the balance between the interests of the patient and the legitimate interests of the professional concerned. We propose shortly to issue a leaflet entitled "How to Complain about Family Practitioner Services", which will describe the procedures in plain English to the ordinary layman. We also intend to hold the new FPCs to account for their performance, and that will involve them giving more information about the number of complaints they receive and how they deal with them. I hope that we shall be able to bring the performance of all FPCs up to the level of the best in the handling of complaints and other matters.

Dr. Mawhinney

How many inspectors who are currently monitoring general practitioners' drug-prescribing habits are reporting to FPCs and to his Department?

Mr. Clarke

I shall have to inform my hon. Friend by letter of the exact figure. We are looking at the work of those inspectors as an important part of our policy of trying to make general practitioners more aware of the necessity to prescribe generic drugs where they are the most effective and cost-effective form of treatment.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Minister accept that many of the positive proposals that he has for FPCs are not likely to be achieved so long as manual recording systems continue to be used? When does he expect every FPC to go over to a computerised system, and can he guarantee that all the committees' computerised systems will be compatible with the computerised systems of the district health authorities to which they relate?

Mr. Clarke

I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman in his premise. We have commissioned a report, which is to hand, from a firm of consultants, Arthur Andersen and Co., on the whole question of the computerisation of the records and administration of FPCs. We hope that the systems will be compatible with one another, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of ensuring that they facilitate collaboration with the DHAs.

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