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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)

  • 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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