GPs will soon face prosecution for not following guidelines set down by the health watchdog of England and Wales, it has been revealed.
Guidance from NICE will become legally enforceable from 2009/10. Other penalties for failing to prove compliance include GP suspension or even the possible closure of practices, the chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Baroness Young announced.
According to Pulse, the commission plans to bring all GPs in line with the guidance, having told ministers the risks justify "system regulation of primary care as well as professional regulation of individuals".
A spokesman for the CQC said: "We expect providers always to comply with NICE guidelines and other national guidance unless they can show a good reason to vary from them."
A consultation is due to be launched into which clinical areas the CQC should concentrate on and the possible range of sanctions.
"The steps we can take range from a formal warning notice to prosecution and imposition of restrictions, or even closure of a service," the spokesman said.
NICE is currently in communication with the commission over how the rules will work, according to implementation director at NICE, Val Moore.
"We are not an inspector or a regulator, but it would be very welcome to get going on topics together with the CQC," she said.