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CAMHS won't see you now

Major inquiry into GP care quality to help set new standards

By Steve Nowottny

Health policy charity the King's Fund has launched a major, 18-month inquiry into the quality of care in general practice which will produce a series of quality indicators to be used by managers, commissioners and regulators.

The scale of the inquiry looks set to dwarf even that of the Darzi Review and will involve at least 10 major research projects and five discussion papers, examining everything from diagnosis and referrals to access and clinical leadership.

A preliminary report drawn up ahead of the inquiry said there was currently ‘remarkably little information' available about many aspects of patient care in general practice, including quality of diagnosis, referrals and prescribing'.

‘As general practice enters a more competitive environment, focusing on the quality of care will be increasingly important in securing local contracts,' the report warns.

An expert panel including RCGP chair Professor Steve Field, NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon and leading GP academic Professor Martin Roland will head up the wide-ranging investigation.

GPs and patients will be consulted on findings through events and surveys, and a final report will be published in September 2010, in time for the Care Quality Commission to use the new indicators as it takes on regulation of GPs from April 2011.

The inquiry is independent from Government, but previous King's Fund reports have been hugely influential in shaping national policy. Pulse understands both ministers and the CQC have given the project strong backing.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said the inquiry would produce a ‘quality dashboard' to be used by GPs and commissioners to drive up standards.

‘With Darzi we were looking very much at secondary care. The only way primary care is going to be able to raise its head in this time of economic decline is by defining its own quality standards.'

Professor Field said the primary aim of the inquiry was to enable GPs to establish and share examples of best practice.

‘We can't be complacent,' he said. ‘It's not about finding out what's bad with general practice. It's about looking at why we do things well and how we could do things better.'

The inquiry's expert panel also includes Dr Rebecca Rosen, senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust and a GP in south London, and Ursula Gallagher, director of quality, clinical governance and clinical practice at Ealing PCT.

RCGP Chair Professor Steve Field is on the panel heading up the inquiry RCGP Chair Professor Steve Field

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