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Gold, incentives and meh

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their workforce were ‘rubbish’, while the GPC has said that the data appears to be ‘seriously flawed’ and should be withdrawn.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

  • @ 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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