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GP practices to get school report-style scorecard ratings

GP practices face being rated with new school report-style ‘balanced scorecards', which will hand out As, Bs or Cs for a range of clinical or organisational indicators.

A report by primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome recommended PCTs commission scorecards and publish ratings on trust websites, as a way of managing practice performance.

Dr Colin-Thome called for commissioners to have access to ‘detailed, comparative information so they can readily identify variations in clinical behaviours and quality standards' and to encourage practices ‘to compare their own performance against that of their peers'.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said the Government ‘welcomed the findings' of the report, and was ‘committed to implementing the recommendations'.

But GP leaders fear the scorecards will be used to place practices in league tables, and questioned the need for yet another round of regulation.

The balanced scorecard system is set to be based on a pilot in Tower Hamlets PCT, which rated practices annually against 19 indicators, including access, A&E visits and clinical and cost-effectiveness of prescribing. Each indicator was scored A, B or C.

But GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he was very concerned the system could be misused to create a ‘league table situation'.

He said: ‘We're worried it could be misused. We would want to be fully consulted regarding any implementation of such an assessment. It runs the real risk of assessing general practice in an extremely crude and simplistic term.

‘Given we are already subject to a raft of other ways in which GP surgeries are being assessed, we need to very sensitive to introducing any performance measures without the profession's full consent.'

A Department of Health spokesperson insisted it was up to PCTs to decide whether to implement scorecards. ‘There is already comparative data published on the NHS Choices website - but PCTs are likely to develop their own balance scorecards in consultation with their own clinicians and local community.'

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