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GPs go forth

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, 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)

  • 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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  • 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.
    Paul Cundy
    Chair GPC IT committee

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