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Independents' Day

Government's GP recruitment data found to be 'seriously flawed' as GPC calls for withdrawal

Exclusive Plans to boost GP recruitment in under-doctored areas have been undermined after Pulse found that data being used to identify the worst hit areas are ‘seriously flawed’, leading the GPC to call for its withdrawal.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced publication of the GP staffing data on the MyNHS website as part of the Government’s ‘new deal’ for general practice and plans to boost recruitment to ‘under-doctored’ areas.

However, the MyNHS data reports have already back-fired after Pulse found data suggesting numerous practices have less than one-tenth of a full-time equivalent GP for practice populations of thousands of patients.

Practice managers said the figures quoted for their workforce were ‘rubbish’, while the GPC has said that the data appears to be ‘seriously flawed’ and should be withdrawn.

This is the latest of the Government’s moves towards ‘transparency’ that has been strongly criticised as misleading and unhelpful, after the CQC was forced to pull its ‘intelligent monitoring’ publication and apologise when data were found to be unfair and crucially flawed.

The new ‘practice workforce’ data provide the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs at each practice, as well as the number of patients and number of GPs per 1,000 patients.

But a number of practices have told Pulse that data about them on the website is wrong, while there is questionable data on a number of other practices.

Practices who stated that their data was wrong included:

  • One practice manager with a MyNHS figure of below one FTE GP, who did not want to be named, said: ‘That’s rubbish, I don’t recognise that figure. I would say it was around one and a third. I would like to know how they arrived at their figures, it’s almost as though they put their finger in the air and came up with the estimate.’
  • Another manager, whose practice was listed as having 0.31 FTE GPs, said: ‘We’ve got one full-time GP who does every session - nine sessions a week. So we are open every session.
  • A third said their figure of 0.64 FTE GPs was ‘simply wrong’ as the practice had one GP, who ‘works more than full-time hours’.

But there was also questionable data on a number of other practices, including one practice with over 7,000 registered patients listed as having zero FTE GPs, and another as having 0.04 FTE GPs for over 2,000 patients.

More than 100 practices are listed as having less than one-fifth of an FTE GP per thousand patients - equating to a GP per 5,000 patients. Pulse tried contacting these practices but only three responded.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said the data appeared ‘seriously flawed’ and ‘cannot be relied upon to make any judgements at all and so should be withdrawn’.

Dr Vautrey noted there are no accurate records of the FTE GP numbers available currently.

He said: ‘One of the outcomes of the current workforce data collection is to resolve this issue, but that’s not completed yet.’

The Department of Health (DH) said the data provided a ‘snapshot’ of the most up-to-date workforce figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre and that the MyNHS site explained how to put the data in context.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘The data published in MyNHS is an accurate snapshot of the GP Workforce Census. It contains detailed supporting information which puts it into the correct context, and explains how this data should be interpreted.’

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Readers' comments (23)

  • Vinci Ho

    While shortage of GPs is a fact. This machinery of propaganda media is to name and shame GPs , blending a label of laziness . More importantly , it will provide recipes for Ministry of Truth and Ministry of Love to implement 'success regime' on the prosecuted. Remember this from Harvey Dent's strategic plan?

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  • Off with their heads.

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  • All this lying from government and NHSE needs to be taken head on by the BMA, RCGP....

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  • It's the head that concocts lies and if that Head also heads the government, the bosom friends in NHSE follow. In an ideal situation it's great when the heart follows the head but for the NHS a liar HEAD and the liar BOSOM spell catastrophe.

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  • I can confirm that my practice entry says we have more GPs than we actually have.

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  • It states my practice has 2 more FTE GPs than we do have.

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  • Sigh. I look forward to barrage of abuse from patients who think our job consists of nothing more complicated than a ten minute chat followed by the offering of a green slip of paper, then off to the golf course...

    I cut down to 7 sessions last year as 9 sessions was not sustainable beyond a year or two. My evenings and weekends were spent doing paperwork at home with running the business and doing CPD was somehow shoehorned in around this. I was bitter and resentful that I never actually seemed to manage a day without a few hours work, holidays never seemed worth it with all the catching up afterwards, and if I start a family i'll hardly seen them as I leave for work so early and get home so late.

    Even with 7 sessions I can usually be found at my desk at work on my weekday days off, or else I am working at home. At least it means I get usually manage a work free day at the weekend now.

    Perhaps it is time to do like our consultant colleagues and include the time doing paperwork and management? This easily puts me up to 10 sessions, more if CPD is included.

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  • It also depends on the definition of "Under Doctored". We have around 1300 patients per GP, yet our GPs are working far more hours than full time. That's because the population in areas of high deprivation require up to 3x as many GP consultations/1000 patients as population in affluent areas. We're under-doctored. GP practices in more affluent areas such as Kent may be comfortable with 2500 patients/ GP. Let's understand this better

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  • Double standards.

    If a doctor published a Journal article with such lies or on a practice website, GMC would intervene by warning or sanction yet the CQC and NHSE (=Govt) just publish rubbish, defame us and discriminate AND NOTHING HAPPENS.

    No one is accountable or loses their job, yet the GMC would XXX up your livelihood, personal finances, reputation and family life dragging a helpless doctor through a year or more long investigation.

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  • it's called politics and spin.

    we are scientists and have to scrutinize data and be scrutinized ourselves. basically it isn't a level playing field.

    time to go.

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  • @ 12.39 and 12.56

    The battleground HAS to be to get an independent body in rather than allowing unregulated, feckless charlatans to get away with this. Things are coming to a head. When collapse comes it will be swift.

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  • We have just over 23,000 patients and are reported on the myNHS site as having 0.39WTE GPs per '000 and 0.27 nurses. In fact we have 11.33 WTE GPs and 9.5WTE nurses which is 0.48 and 0.37 respectively. Still, best not let the facts get in the way of a good story! Rather like the NHS Choices website in general, its flawed and simply serves to pamper to a vociferous minority who increasingly seem to hold sway at the expense of a silent but otherwise satisfied majority.

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  • What's the definition of FTE?

    Apparently we have less than 4 FTE despite having 4 partners doing 50+ hours/week each. So in NHSE's eyes 50+ hours work is less than full time?

    They idiotically based it on numbers of sessions/week, regardless of the length/number of appointments/session. We did an analysis of number of appointments/1000 patients and I know we have more appointments then some of the practices listed on MyNHS with better "FTE nurse/GP combined figures"

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  • so better to do more, shorter sessions.

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  • Some jobs of course are paid more and are busier for the equivalent number of sessions in an easier less busy practice.

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  • The information in our locality significantly inflates the number of doctors... !!!! an error ..or means to an end?

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  • What is the accepted definition of a full time GP?
    Clinical sessions, admin session, CPD session?

    Help please!

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  • usual loathsome incompetence

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  • We are down as 7FTE - I am the only full time GP with the other 6 partners working 6 sessions or less!

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  • @Peter McEvedy | GP Partner | 25 June 2015 8:31am

    To be fair 6 sessions isa full time job when you include the admin associated with those sessions. We need to be careful here if we underestimate the WTE equivalents the DOH will use the figures to say that we are earning load of money per GP.

    If we overestimate the WTE the DOH will say that we are properly staffed.

    I would say it is better to call 6 sessions as FTE. What ever spin the DOH tries to put on it appointment waiting times, burn out level and poor recruitment will be evidence that we do not have enough GPs.

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  • I cannot agree - FTE for staffing levels means 9 clinical sessions. If we say that 6 sessions is full time, we will let the goernment overestimate the number of GPs and show that there is no crisis. I am not belittling the work of GPs who do 6 sessions - my 6 other doctors all do 6 and in one case 5 sessions.But if you replace a full time doctor who does 10 sessions, as I do, with a doctor who does 6 sessions, this is not the same. I am not interested in the semantics of FTE but want to make sure that General Practice is fully staffed and that we compare like with like.

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  • But one practices might have leisurely sessions and no paperwork, whilst another has busy long sessions, visits and paperwork.
    7 sessions here yet that is too much and >40 hours!

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  • Obviously practices vary - I work in a busy deprived area - but surely FTE means just that. Of course most GPs work far more than a 'full day' but equating 3 days to full time in GP terms allows the goverment to massage the figures in their favour. It is not about the level of work - we all know that has increased massively - it is about comparing like with like.

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