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At the heart of general practice since 1960

NHS managers ask practice staff to rate GPs as bosses

By Christian Duffin

The Government is furtively quizzing thousands of practice staff on whether GPs are good employers and whether they provide good patient care.

The GPC fears ministers may use the results to portray GPs negatively and justify greater interference in the way they run their practices.

Some GPs believe that the Government is undermining GPs' independent contractor status by going behind their backs to question staff.

The eight-page survey, What Matters to Staff in the NHS, asks staff to rate how hardworking GPs are, how valued they feel and whether they are likely to be blamed for mistakes.

Staff are also asked if they are satisfied with pay and benefits, and training and promotion opportunities. The survey has been sent to around 6,000 NHS staff in general practices.

The GPC said it had been informed rather than consulted about the survey. GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘My concern is that this survey, like all Government surveys, could be twisted to get a particular result – and portray GPs as the bad boys of the NHS.'

Staff at the Stowhealth surgery in Stowmarket, Suffolk, were among those sent the survey. GPs only found out because a staff member told them.

Dr Mark Shenton was so angered by the underhand tactic that he wrote a letter of complaint to NHS chief executive David Nicholson.

He said: ‘This is a gross infringement on me as an employer. Why does the Department of Health feel it can ask my employees to spend time answering questions about their satisfaction of working for my practice with a questionnaire that is clearly identifiable to practice and employee?'

Dr Simon Rudland, another GP at the practice, likened the survey to the recent £11m patient satisfaction survey and predicted it would backfire in a similar fashion. ‘I'm very upset that a third party is asking my staff to comment on their working environment and the clinical competence of the individuals they work with.'

He added that some of the answers provided might not be accurate and the results could compromise a practice's relationship with its PCT by undermining its GPs.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the survey was a contradiction because although the department denied full pensions to practice staff because they were not considered NHS employees, ministers were happy to include them in an NHS survey if the results might be critical of GPs.

Pulse asked the department what it proposed to do with the results but it was unable to comment.

Statements staff are asked to rate

- I have the time I need to do my job properly
- Clinicians and the practice managers work well together in my practice
- Managers in my practice are committed to patient care
- Overall, I feel my practice supports me to do my job properly
- My practice involves me in decisions that affect me in my work
- There are opportunities for me to progress and get on with my job
- Managers in my area of work are quick to blame staff when things go wrong

Dr Simon Rudland: upset that a third party is seeking his staff's views on his practice Dr Simon Rudland: upset that a third party is seeking his staff's views on his practice

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