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At the heart of general practice since 1960

BMA fears as Government's GP ratings site goes live

By Ian Quinn

The Government today launched its biggest drive yet to ramp up competition among GPs for patients with the long-anticipated arrival of practice ratings on its NHS Choices website.

Health Minister Mike O'Brien said the ‘restaurant–style' scoring of services at all England's GP practices would be a precursor for allowing patients to switch to rival GPs seen to be offering better services, as the DH prepares to scrap the system of practice boundaries.

The site will allow patients to leave anonymous comments and create mini-league tables to compare surgeries, in an attempt to bring a much bigger element of market forces to play in primary care.

But the BMA has warned the internet is the worst place to host comments, claiming the service ignores the views of many elderly patients and the long-term sick who are among the highest users of services.

The new comparison tool will show opening times and additional facilities offered by the GPs and also patient comments about:

• How easy it is to get an appointment

• How highly they would recommend the GP practice

• How well patients are treated by staff

• If patients felt they were involved in decisions about their care

Health Minister Mike O'Brien said: 'As we open up real choice in primary care, it is vital we equip patients with enough information to make the right choice for them.'

'We recently announced that we intend to abolish GP practice boundaries.'

'This new tool allows every single GP practice in the country to see the patient's view on what they are doing well and what needs to be improved. It will help drive up quality across the board.'

Pulse revealed last month that there had been intense lobbying by GP leaders worried that the patient feedback will be twisted and used against GPs by PCTs and the Government.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair, said the launch of the GP online ‘scorecard' was not the best way to deliver feedback.

‘GPs have been getting feedback, through inviting comments from patients, and via surveys or patient participation groups, for years,' he said.

'We are pleased that many of our initial concerns, such as the potential for malicious postings or the ability to post a right of reply, have been allayed. However, we remain to be convinced how much real value this will have for patients.'

‘Such feedback will always be from a self-selected population motivated to post feedback. Unless a significant number of comments are generated - good or bad - it will be impossible to build up a reliable and accurate picture of the practice and its quality.'

'Furthermore, our highest users, the elderly and the long-term sick, who are arguably in the best position to give useful feedback to other patients, are the least likely to post comments, as research shows they have the lowest rate of accessibility to the internet.'

Power of the patient: GP ratings going online Power of the patient: GP ratings going online

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