Regular checks on doctors’ skills will start from December 2012, heralding the biggest shake-up in medical regulation for more than 150 years.  The UK’s 220,000 doctors will have annual appraisals, with a decision taken every five years on whether they are fit to continue working. (BBC, 19th October 2012)

NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said that this initiative was a ‘powerful opportunity’ to ensure standards of quality and professionalism are kept to across the country.The NHS is a service industry and needs to meet the needs of patients in the same way that commercial companies do with customers.  High quality service can improve people’s perceptions of the organisation and is a factor in helping to differentiate it from competitors.

Zurich Insurance Group provides insurance and other financial services to both individuals and businesses. In the UK alone, Zurich has over two million live policies and handles thousands of interactions with customers each month.  It therefore puts delivering quality customer service at the heart of everything it does.

General Medical Council chief executive Niall Dickson said the GP assessment system should help improve quality, but he admitted the health industry had been ‘slow to recognise’ the importance of such checks.  At the moment there are no mandatory checks on the performance of individual doctors, a situation which has been compared unfavourably to the airline industry where pilots face regular, on-going assessment. When serious complaints are made about performance, the GMC can start disciplinary procedures but this system essentially only picks up problems when things have gone wrong.

In a service industry, this sort of ‘quality control’ approach is rarely enough to maintain standards. This is because many aspects of a service are only realised as they are delivered to customers.   Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: ‘[This initiative] is a very positive step forward and should herald greater patient safety and build confidence‘.

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