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Ministers warned against GP quality league tables

Leading Government-funded researchers have warned ministers against publishing league tables of GP quality because of fears that the 'dubious' data could mislead patients.

A report from the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre said revealing practice quality scores might 'encourage a blame culture and erode GPs' professional confidence'.

Co-author Professor Martin Marshall, professor of general practice at the centre and an adviser to the NHS Modernisation Agency, said patient demographics, social mix and practice resources should be published alongside quality scores. 'Publication in some form is inevitable but given the doubts about what the data means, it must be sensible ­ and that means not league tables,' he said.

Health minister John Hutton has said he wants practice quality scores published from April 2005 and has left PCTs to decide what form the performance tables should take.

The new report ­ Measuring General Practice ­ also warned publishing quality data would increase the risk of 'gaming' and data massaging by GPs.

It concluded there were significant benefits in using quality indicators to assess and improve GPs' performance ­ but said it was unclear whether this would be cost-effective.

That conclusion was echoed in a report from Professor Alan Maynard, professor of health economics at the University of York. He warned that voters would need convincing that the quality framework offered 'value for money' and demanded central data collection to ensure GPs were not abusing the 'high-trust' reporting system.

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