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Doubt cast on patient surveys to assess GPs

A leading Government expert on measuring patient satisfaction has cast doubt on the suitability and usefulness of the patient surveys for assessing GPs' performance under the new contract.

Professor Angela Coulter, head of the Picker Institute, the Government's approved contractor for NHS patient surveys, said a new tool had to be developed from scratch to assess ­ without bias ­ how individual GPs interact with their patients.

Patient experience is one of 17 quality and outcome markers that will be used to determine between 30 and 50 per cent of GP pay under the new contract.

Negotiators are currently considering the General Practice Assessment Survey (GPAS) and the Improving Practice Questionnaire (IPQ) for use in the contract.

But Professor Coulter told Pulse neither would be suitable for use in the contract.

She said: 'I think there are problems with both. GPAS is meant for the study of practices. For the contract they want to measure patients' interaction with GPs.

'Any new questionnaire being used would take a long time to develop and test, in

order to be ''credible''.'

She added: 'The way we develop questionnaires is by asking patients what matters to them, developing them from the bottom up and by using psychometric testing.

'I do not think either

GPAS or IPQ have been fully tested.'

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman refused to reveal which survey had been selected for measuring GP performance but said it was one that had been 'verified

in over tens of thousands of consultations' and would be representative.

Meanwhile, patient groups cast doubt on surveys as a credible way of measuring patient satisfaction.

Lynn Faulds Wood, a former presenter on the BBC's Watchdog programme who became an expert patient after overcoming bowel cancer, said there was a risk middle-class views could dominate surveys and skew clinical priorities.

'There are lots of willing middle-class women with breast cancer happy to come forward and help,' she told

a conference this month.

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