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Government-backed website to compare practices' quality of care

By Gareth Iacobucci

The quality of care provided by individual GP practices is to come under the microscope as never before with the launch of a controversial new web rating system.

The site, which compares a practice against the average for a wide range of clinical indicators, is intended to provide commissioners with precise information about how well GPs are treating their patients.

Developed by the Government funded London Health Observatory, it will show exhaustive information about a practice's size and patient demographics.

And the site will also provide data on a potential 89 different indicators of quality, including information on the prevalence of obesity, binge drinking and smoking and what action the practice has taken to tackle them.

There will be details of practice rates for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disorders -among many others - showing how prevalence compares with other practices and ‘how well the practice is doing at treating these conditions'.

There are eight other health observatories and the system could be rolled out nationally.

An LHO spokesperson said: ‘The Government wants to ensure, through the commissioning agenda, that it gets down to the nitty gritty. It's about finding out what the issues are in a specific area. If there is a high level of obesity, for example, what is causing it. Is it the GP practice, or the PCT?'

She added: ‘In terms of any political agenda, we can't really comment. It's not necessarily a scoring system.'

But GPs have expressed concern about data being used out of context.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said he feared many commissioners would use the tool to judge GPs performance without considering other factors.

‘Do I believe this is a good way of judging doctors? No. Would you just refer to the Michelin guide to find about a restaurant? If you're unwise enough to do it on a single source of information to make judgements, that's your problem.'

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