DoH admits to flaws in GP workforce data
The Department of Health has admitted its own data on GP numbers is 'so poor' it does not form a reliable picture of the workforce crisis.
The extraordinary admission has shredded the credibility of Government claims to have recruited more than 1,500 new GPs and to be close to its NHS Plan target of an additional 2,000 by 2004.
In a bulletin to PCT chief executives, the department said: 'Initial returns from some organisations in previous years have been so poor that it is not possible to form a reliable view on the workforce position.'
The bulletin urges chief executives to ensure future data on GP numbers is 'accurate and prompt' to support the March 2004 target.
Dr Stuart Drage, chair of the GPC's workforce sub-committee, said the BMA had made its declaration that 10,000 more GPs were needed because it had not trusted Government figures.
'They have been pressuring workforce development corporations and PCTs to deliver on the NHS Plan, but their information base has been dodgy all along,' he said.
'This now sends a signal to chief executives that they can't rely on Government figures because their own data is wrong.'
Dr Drage said publication of supplementary lists in 2001 meant a large number of lo-cums and non-principals who were not previously counted were now included in the Government's tally: 'In the mid-1990s we recruited 700 GP assistants into London, but according to the supplementary list there has been an increase of maybe 500 non-principals in London in eight years a drop in the ocean.'
Pippa Gough, research fellow at the King's Fund, said there was a lack of minimum data sets to compare data from different trusts.