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GPs told to submit reports on all staff for NHS workforce survey by May

Exclusive GP practices will have to submit a ‘significant piece of work’ to managers on all their staff, including a report of their absences, ethnicity and the reasons for staff members leaving, Pulse has learnt.

The NHS workforce Minimum Data Set - which must be filled in by all GP practices in England for every member of staff by May - covers 75 categories, including absences, contracted hours and former staff members’ reasons for leaving.

The data set is part of NHS England’s new workforce planning drive, but GP leaders say ‘significant’ work will still be required, particularly for larger practices and overstretched practice managers, despite much of the information being automatically filled in with data from previous censuses held on the Exeter system.

The dataset will replace the annual GP census, but requires a much greater level of detail to be inputted for staff members, including elements such as ethnicity and national insurance number.

The GPC sought legal opinion on whether NHS England could force extraction of these sensitive data items about staff, which are normally protected by the Data Protection Act.

However, it found that the information can be demanded under powers granted bysection 259 of the Health and Social Care Act – the same section which blocks GPs from preventing the extraction of their patients’ records under care.data, NHS England’s GP record-sharing scheme.

The HSCIC, which is managing the extraction of staff information, explain in the Frequently Asked Questions why personal information is required.

The FAQ states: ‘The wMDS project objectives cannot be met without the collection of personal information. For example: without the National Insurance (NI) number individuals cannot be tracked between organisations. The NI number is also essential to determine the headcount of the workforce across different sectors and job roles.’

It added: ‘Effective workforce planning requires information about the current workforce with regard to age profile, gender, ethnicity and capacity (FTE).’

The survey will not collect information on ‘highly sensitive items’ including sexual orientation and religion, and the HSCIC is currently calling for feedback on the steps it has taken to mitigate the risk of private data being used inappropriately.

Dr Nigel Watson chief executive of Wessex LMCs told Pulse: ‘It is for every member of staff, they’re trying to look at the whole of general practice.

‘But I think everybody does believe it’s a bit intrusive, which is why I believe the BMA has taken legal advice, which said that practices should provide that information.

‘If you’ve got a workforce - and if you take my practice, we’ve probably got 40 to 45 employees - to fill all that data in on every single person takes some time.’

However, he added that ‘decent figures’ were needed to plan for increasing the capacity of general practice.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘This will largely fall on the shoulders of practice managers, who are also extremely busy at the moment, and this is just an extra burden for them to carry.

‘The intention is that a lot of it will be extracted from Exeter, but a lot of it will be required to be entered manually. The intention in future years is that it would only be amendments and changes to be made, but that in itself is a significant bit of work, especially if you’ve got a big practice.’

‘We’d certainly want to hear from practices about the practical problems of doing much of this and how much time it takes to do this.’

In October, Jeremy Hunt annouced that Health Education England would lead a major review into GP workforce to end the current ‘guesswork’ caused by a lack of information.

A Department of Health spokesperson told Pulse: ‘It is vital we get accurate and detailed information from GPs about their workforce - it allows us to plan for future training and recruitment requirements and reassures the public.’

‘We have undertaken several pilots over the last two years to reduce the burden this places on GPs who will be able to submit their data on the Primary Care Web Tool which will be pre-populated with information we already hold.’

Please note: this article was changed at 11:25 on 13 January to reflect that the deadline for submitting data will be May 2015, not March 2015 as first stated

Readers' comments (36)

  • This is just yet more crap, beaurocratic shit. Time wasting drivel.

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  • "former staff members’ reasons for leaving."

    Boy, I hope I get to fill that in!

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  • Is the acronym a deliberate play on WMD do you think?

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  • What happened to the "no work without the funding" 2004 contract? Where in our GMS contract does it say we have to do this. What possible use is this data to the NHS? We are independent private businesses, the NHS can do zero workforce planning for us. This is being demanded simply because they can, not because they need.

    I will take great delight in filling in why people have left - every one will be "because they are sick fed up of the tsunami of pointless moronic worthless work generated by NHSE whose only purpose is to justify its own non-jobs"

    FFS GPC, will you stand up to nothing?

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  • I would also like to fill in - reason for leaving - exGP Partner

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  • I do not believe the planning involves us, but preparing the information for a take over of our staff be private providers.
    Either that or we will be " obliged" to change our staff skill mix/ employ more staff.
    I doubt that this is pointless ( from NHSE point of view).

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  • You don't pay, you don't get. And what on earth does sexual preference have to do with workforce planning?

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  • Seems like we just need a blanket NO - get lost response, ideally with the support of our lily-livered representatives.There again more like to see flying pigs.

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  • Why don't we get the IQ measurement of everybody at the DOH, Whitehall and Parliament before May?

    I think it can be done within 2 sec= as it is on the lowest scale= 69 and below

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  • .. so we can send them all away and plan for the future political workforce!!

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  • just don't do it

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  • How many NHS employees are there ti analyse and deal with all this data?
    It adds nothing to patient care.
    We're touted small businesses and it's our responsibility to hire/fire - what's it got to do with them?
    Workforce planning BS; it's to estimate the no. of jobs lost when it's all privatised.

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  • A few years ago our PCT called practice managers to a meeting about a few things one of which was the PCT demand for us to fill in a spreadsheet giving vast amounts of detail about our staff. The PCT said they needed this for workforce planning. All Practice Managers rolled their eyes at the amount of time this would take. Sound familiar?

    I dug my heels in. I demanded to know what decisions the PCT would make that could be affected by this data. How would those decisions be affected? What formulae, what trigger points were being used? How would inclusion of NI numbers affect any decision? How could any decision affect practices since we are all separate employers not beholden to the PCT for our staffing decisions? At first the PCT managers kept up their robotic mantra, repeating it was for workforce planning but when continually pressed for specifics they had to concede, point by point, that there were no formulae to be applied to all the data they were demanding, that no decisions were awaiting this data, that they had no actionable questions that needed this data, that there was nothing they could make us do with it. In the end the PCT managers conceded and asked for just the bare, and reasonable data – wte numbers of types of staff. It was clear the PCT was demanding just because it thought it could and not because it needed the data.

    That is what the GPC needs to do, but sadly they always seem to be so wishy washy and far too keen to toe the line when confronted by authority. They have absolutely no fight in them. I renounce the GPC’s right to speak or negotiate with Govt/DoH/NHS E on behalf of general practice. They have betrayed me too often.

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  • excellent idea !

    but why only 75 categories ? surely they need to know what I had for breakfast, how often I open my bowels, how many posters of Jeremy Hunt I have etc - the public has a right to know !

    and why wait till May - surely we can do it by the end of the week?

    i don't think they are taking recruitment and retention seriously - what we need is;

    1. a in-depth public inquiry
    2. headed by a dame, lady or lord especially someone who doesn't have a clue about primary care
    3. input from management consultants
    4. the inquiry will involve holidays abroad ... sorry i meant fact finding missions to places such as USA (forida , disneyworld etc) to see how they do things there.
    5. a draft report will be leaked
    6. recommendations will include mandatory education courses to address the staff's deficiencies

    i don't want to spoil the results but the conclusions are likely to state that GPs are to blame and NHS staff need resilience training to be provided by some politicians training company ... ahem

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  • Our old PCT asked for this a few years ago. I responded that since the DoH was bent on handing over primary healthcare to the large private HMOs (who's lobbyists they have almost certainly promised it to), this was commercially sensitive information. After some to-ing & fro-ing, they went away. Now the PCT re-treads who populate NHSE have exhumed this one & taken the stake out of its heart. I well recall my first locality PMs meeting, where I confessed to struggling with some HA audit du jour. Just make it up, said my older, wiser colleagues; It's what we all do....

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  • Lets not beat about the bush here. there are only 2 reasons for gathering this level of data at this scale:
    1. The NHS is about to undergo the greatest change ever seen since 1948 - greater in scale than the Lansley reforms
    2. To ensure that it is possible to do this at scale, tender primary care/ the NHS to Trusts, large national, international or transatlantic sector organisations you need to know what you have got end to end to create a spec - if I was an American healthcare company that with an interest in the NHS or primary care as a whole they would be essential data that i would need even before stepping through the door with a bid.

    Of course this may all simply be a way of knowing where everyone is so that the whole NHS workforce can be nurtured, protected and supported in their future careers…..

    The clock is ticking and there is a bell tolling in the distance - we need to wake up now!!

    Peter ;)

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  • Sorry, I don't get this. Practices are run as a business by the partners who directly employ their staff - not NHS England or the CCG. What right do they have to demand this information ?

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  • i am afraid it will get the same treatment as the "vital Signs" audit they sent out last year - which ended up in my waste paper basket

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  • GP's … whilst you are at it, can you check how many of your staff eat five portions of fruit a day, where high hells, have two or more kids, come to work on a bike and whilst you are at it, can you do the weekly wash as well!

    Is this the same idiotic group that require all practices to have a PPG group but do absolutely nothing to monitor them, bulling if fine, threats to patients are fine but please don't bother them?No guide lines, no agreements, no rule book, bash the patients like the NHS bashes GP's!

    Roll on the next election!

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  • David Riley is correct ! We run a private business, do Virgin submit this data ?

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  • We must take a stand and refuse to provide this information. When I last looked, no one from the DoH had any right to determine what staff we hire and how many and how much we pay. In a nutshell they do not ' workforce plan' what happens at our surgery or any other. Let's be honest, they couldn't plan a piss up in a brewery. If forced to respond, I will fill it with nonsense .

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  • I suśpect it is all part of a planning step in the great privatisation plans, can they afford to TUPE our staff across?
    And no, they have no right to personal data on our staff. In fact, don't we have a duty to protect their personal data as employers?

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  • Who on earth did the gpc get advice from? My understanding is that section 259 of hsca only applies to patient data. As result I would have thought there is no obligation to provide staff data. That would be a data breach against staff and practices may be liable. In addition, this is commercially sensitive data. What does the information commissioner have to say about this?

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  • It is dissapointing to see so many negative comments about the wMDS collection. I have been doing workforce planning for many years. There is very little knowledge about GP practice workforce profile. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the staff employed by GP practices receive very little training, have low skills, have poor access to CPD, often cannot attend training because there is no backfill and support. In order to design appropriate training packages for staff we do need to know how big is the problem of skills.
    We also know that staff in GP practices are older than the NHS staff, and large numbers of retirements are looming. but few nurses want to work in practices as it is considered a dead end for career development.
    How service reforms can be implemented without increasing capacity in primary care, attracting more and highly skilled people; and to do this we need to know what retention, recruitment and learning issues exist so that we (Health Education England) could help.
    GP services are provided to the public using public funds and GP practice staff need to receive the same training and development as in the rest of the NHS. Staff who are developed and looked after provide better service, are more productive and motivated. The attitude must change.

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  • We all have to acknowledge that there is a shortage in skilled workforce for Primary Care - Primary Care has been neglected for too many years. Practices are reliant on NHSE to provide the training places to maintain and increase our skilled capacity. In order to plan training places they need workforce data. With an ageing workforce it is crucial that the next generation of skilled staff are planned in advance. Practices are independent business' but we do rely on others to train the staff we employ so cant cry wolf if we don't have the numbers and skills we need to deliver.

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  • If general practice had to rely on NHSE for anything we would be in the same state as the rest of the NHS. Thankfully we don't and that is why general practice is the most efficient service contracted (not employed) by the NHS. NHSE are arguably responsible through their so called planning for most ills of the NHS.

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  • I wonder if any of the people criticising the staff in GP practices have actually been there and spoken to them - it seems that the old cliches of GP reception staff are still alive and well (anonymous 7.55am!) Staff in GP practices today are well trained, highly motivated, intelligent - and since when does their age matter? People can now continue to work for as long as they want! The reason people are retiring in huge numbers is due to the nightmare which general practice has now become due to the faceless bureaucrats who foist this type of insulting nonsense on us on a daily basis!

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  • "Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 14 January 2015 7:55am
    t the staff employed by GP practices receive very little training, have low skills,......

    but few nurses want to work in practices as it is considered a dead end for career development. "

    Accusing our staff of having low skills? Come and say that to their faces. And if we advertise a nurse job, every applicant is from a hospital, desperate to get out of hospital and into general practice.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • There are current government agencies that already have ALL of this information including NI numbers, rates of pay, and Job descriptions, as they are the same agencies that we are also FORCED to supply all of the relevant information. HMRC and the Pensions Agency, surely they can just "press a button" and provide all the necessary information to NHSE???

    Isn't that the beauty of very expensive IT equipment??

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  • Dear All,
    The ECHR requires individuals to have the right to opt out of this sort of data collection. Dame Fiona Caldicott has recently re-stated this right. Therefore your staff must be offered the opportunity to opt out of this extraction.
    Regards
    Paul Cundy
    Chair GPC IT committee

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  • Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 14 January 2015 7:55am

    Wow it takes something to insult every single member of GP staff across the land by calling them low skilled.

    And why would you need race, sexual preference, etc??

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  • I wonder if the staff can refuse for the data to be given and report the practice to the data commissioner?

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  • Why hasn't the fact that pilots have been done over a two year period come to light before now

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  • OHP 7.55am....change your job if this is the situation you find yourself in - don't just insult those you have no mandate to speak for.

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  • Utter drivel of the finest order. Best example of the sort of extra dross dumped on Practices by Jezza and his merry band of whizbang idea generators. One step forward who wants to help the Practice Manager with this !

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  • Other healthcare professional...
    ....GP practices receive very little training, have low skills, have poor access to CPD, often cannot attend training because there is no backfill and support. In order to design appropriate training packages for staff we do need to know how big is the problem of skills. ...
    You are talking from your behind..
    Why remain anonymous and hide behind other healthcare professional. GP practice is a business and we need skilled workers to keep our patients on our list , otherwise if and when it will go pear shaped not only we will be in front of GMC and or in Daily Mail, we will put our patient's lives in danger.
    We GP worked in the hospital so we know what happens there but
    I bet many hospital consultant have no idea how GP Prentice works. some of them when decides to become GP then they realise the enormity of the task. GP bashing has become past time for some...

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