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Anti-GP headlines prompt Information Centre to plug data leaks

The Information Centre, the Government's data arm, is to tighten its security after a series of leaks last year led to a raft of anti-GP headlines, Pulse has learned.

Documents obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information act reveal the Information Centre was forced to take action after GP pay and workload figures were last year leaked to national newspapers twice within three months.

The leaks resulted in a storm of negative media coverage, with one paper claiming the figures ‘proved doctors are raking in more for less work.'

Now the Information Centre is to restrict pre-release access to statistics in a bid to stop further leaks.

In a letter to the National Statistician, the centre's Statistics Head of Profession Dr Andy Sutherland admitted an investigation had been unable to discover how journalists could have received a report on GP earnings and expenses two days ahead of its official release last October.

Dr Sutherland said pre-release access had been given to members of the IC's Technical Steering Committee, as well as health ministers and their policy and communications staff.

‘The TSC secretariat is currently reviewing who is given pre-release access to papers and reducing it where possible,' he said. ‘More generally, the Government is currently consulting on proposals to reduce pre-release access to statistics across the Board.'

But GPC member Dr Kailash Chand expressed doubts over whether the measures would be enough to stop further leaks, which he blamed on sources close to ministers.

‘It's not going to work,' he said. ‘We all know why these leaks were given in the first place. They are trying to put us in a bad light so they can have their own agenda. This has been going on for ten years since Tony Blair came to power.'

Dr Brian Dunn, chair of GPC Northern Ireland and a member of the Technical Steering Committee, said TSC members needed to see data to contribute their expertise.

‘You can never rule out the risk of leaks altogether,' he said. But if information like GPs' private income was taken out of the statistics, there would be less room for misrepresentation, he added.

A Department of Health spokeswoman denied any involvement in the leaks.

Who's to blame for anti-GP leaks?Who's to blame for anti-GP leaks? Who's to blame for anti-GP leaks?

Pre-release access granted to
- Technical Steering Committee
- GPC
- the Information Centre
- NHS Employers
- the four UK health departments
- Health ministers
- Health ministers' policy and communications staff

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