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Angry GPs in despair over league tables

Government plans to allow crude league tables of practices' performance will deliver a crushing blow to the profession's morale, say GPs.

In a unanimous condemnation of the proposals, GPs also predicted practices in deprived areas would be worst hit and would find it even harder to recruit new partners.

Health minister John Hutton has said patients have a right to know how many quality points their GP is scoring and making the information public will help improve performance. But GPs responded that league tables would have the opposite effect.

Dr Russell Walshaw, medical secretary of East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire LMC, said league tables would distort GPs' priorities. 'If GPs don't get enough points they will lose patients and if they are concentrating on league tables they are not concentrating on looking after patients,' he added.

GPs in rundown areas said they face a tougher task to score well on the quality framework because of higher deprivation levels.

Dr Helen Parry, a GP in Sunderland, said her practice would 'lose' as it is in an area of high unemployment and has a high prevalence of smoking and alcohol-related problems. 'These are things we can change over 20 or 30 years,' she said. 'But in the short-term it's not in our control.'

Dr Niall Finegan, a GP in Salford, said the tables would worsen recruitment problems. 'They've not worked in teaching or PCTs and won't work with GPs either.'

Dr Tanya Johnston said her practice in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, has a large elderly population which could mean it gets a low quality score. 'League tables are a blunt instrument,' she said.

Dr Chris Udenze, a GP in Nottingham, said publishing quality scores would give an incentive to massage figures. He said: 'There are financial pressures on GPs to tick the right boxes already and some will be less than 100 per cent honest in the data they put on their computer.'

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