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GPC slams the development of 'silly' national GP league tables

By Nigel Praities

National GP league tables due for launch next year are a waste of money, according to the GPC chair.

Patients are to be provided with access to traffic light ratings on 101 clinical and organisational quality markers developed by US consultants as part of a dramatic expansion of the Department of Health's balanced scorecard scheme.

Balanced scorecards are already being introduced at PCT level, but the new national ratings system has been developed by private firm McKinsey, which was appointed by the Government to spearhead the plan in May.

The Department of Health says the new data, to be published by the NHS Information Centre in the New Year, will not only benefit patients but also provide trusts with a new performance-management tool. Managers will be able to compare individual practices against local and national benchmarks in unprecedented detail.

But some GPs and practice managers warned the move – unveiled at the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham last week, would give trusts ‘a big stick to beat GPs with'.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman reacted furiously to the scheme, branding it an ‘inappropriate use of taxpayers money'.

‘After we spent years devising a QOF to the same job, they have gone ahead and chosen a group of American accountants at taxpayers' expense. So much of it is silly. I will be interested in how many patients will look at this,' he said.

Jill Matthews, the DH's national implementation director for primary care and community services, said PCTs would use the tool to identify struggling practices.

She told the NAPC conference: ‘As a PCT, if I see three practices that are doing less well on a particular indicator than last year, I would want to know why.

‘There is a view all of this information should be on NHS Choices so as we move to a world where practice boundaries aren't an issue, patients can use it to choose their practice.'

Under the scheme, every practice in England will be graded green, amber or red on each indicator - with access, communication skills, attainment of blood pressure and diabetes targets and generic prescribing all assessed.

Patients and trusts will be able to see which percentile, from 1 to 100, any given practice falls into when ranked against others in the PCT or across England.

Ray Guy, a practice manager in Liverpool and NAPC delegate, warned: ‘Some PCTs will inevitably use this as a stick to beat practices with.'

How practices will be rated

- Practices will be scored on 101 clinical, organisational and patient experience indicators
- For each indicator they will be scored as ‘top-performing', 'coasting', ‘improving' or ‘struggling'
- The DH says the information is currently publically available from public health observatories, the NHS Information Centre and the DH itself but this is the first time it has been collected all in the same place

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