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DH to scrap a quarter of data returns

The Government is set to scrap a quarter of the data returns demanded from GPs, hospitals and other NHS bodies as part of a drive to cut NHS red tape and save £10m.

The Department of Health's consultation on the ‘fundamental review of data returns', launched yesterday, says 58 of the 305 datasets demanded by the DH and NHS quangos have been suspended with a view to them being permanently abolished when the 12-week consultation finishes. The DH claims the plans will save the NHS around £10m.

The majority of data earmarked for the scrapheap relates to policies and targets set up by the previous Government or returns to NHS bodies and quangos that are being abolished.

A raft of suspended primary care data returns are set to be permanently axed, including information the national patient choice survey, which asks patients if they recall being offered a choice of hospital appointments by their GP and measures their satisfaction with waiting times, along with measures of participation in practice-based commissioning and GP fundholding. 

Monthly monitoring of extended GP practice opening hours is set to be abolished as part of DH proposals to scrap the entire ‘vital signs' package, used to support the NHS Operating Framework.

Hospitals will no longer have to provide returns on compliance with the 18 weeks' referral to treatment target or the four hour A&E waiting time target, both of which were abolished by the coalition.

The consultation also includes proposals to review a series of data returns, including the £1.6m Central Alerting System, used to distribute safety and drug alerts to GPs and practices.

Announcing the consultation public health minister, Anne Milton said: ‘Meaningful information is the lifeblood of the NHS. The data we collect must be of real value to help us improve patient outcomes, patient choice and clinical decisions. We know that some of the data that is being gathered is of limited use, taking up valuable staff time and resources.

‘This is why we want to cut red tape in the NHS so that staff can focus on what matters most – improving frontline care and services for patients.'

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘We believe the result of review will free local NHS staff from unnecessary administrative burdens while at the same time supporting patient choice and better decision-making within the NHS.'

Estimated savings from data returns set for the scrapheap:

  • £503,820 by scrapping quarterly monitoring of the uptake of five Direct Enhanced Services introduced in 2008/09.
  • £275,299 by stopping monthly monitoring of an £100m upgrade on GP surgery premises in 2008/09.
  • £188,842 by abolishing the GP Practice Staff Return which forms parts of the annual census of GPs.
  • £109,121 from scrapping the GP practice vacancy survey.
  • £70,000 by discontinuing surveys of practice-based commissioning leads and grass-roots GPs participating in practice-based commissioning.

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