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Mortality risk of some ?2-agonists

Audits of GPs' performance which have not even been seen by practices should be given to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, new Government guidance reveals.

The guidance released last week says PCOs or contractors must release 'all the information that is asked for' by companies or individuals about their quality framework performance.

This includes quality framework audits, inspection reports and GPs' aspiration and achievement levels.

PCOs have already received letters from private firms fishing for details of GPs' quality framework performance.

The requests have renewed GPs' fears that lower-scoring practices might be targeted for possible takeover.

The GPC said there was nothing GPs could do to stop the information being released and PCOs and practices had to comply with requests.

GPC deputy chair Dr Laurence Buckman said negotiators had complained to ministers about the consequences of having to release the information during contract talks.

'If the information has been collated by the PCO then it is open to public access. If the PCOs have the information there's not much you can do about it,' he said.

He added: 'The time for protesting is long gone. Am I happy? No. Is it the law? Yes.'

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office said the onus was on GPs to provide information unless they could prove a rock solid case for exemption.

Such exemptions would include releasing personal information, such as patient re-cords, and commercially sen- sitive information.

Failing to comply with the Act or refusing to provide the information on cost grounds could mean GPs facing a fine or even jail sentence.

GPs can only charge to provide information if the task will cost more than £450 to complete, based on an hourly rate of £25 an hour. They have to agree this with the person requesting the information.

By Rob Finch

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