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NHS to rate GPs for new patient guide

GPs are set to be rated on a series of practice indicators to allow patients to choose where they want to be registered, Pulse can reveal.

The NHS has joined with private firm Dr Foster to draw up plans for assessing GPs using prescribing and referral data.Dr Foster Intelligence, a 50:50 public-private venture, plans a scorecard on similar lines to its high-profile Hospital Guide, the latest edition of which is published this week.A spokesperson insisted the scheme would be voluntary, but it has intensified pressure for a nationwide, practice-led accreditation scheme. The RCGP warned that if GPs did not engage with its own controversial system for accrediting practices, private firms would be bound to take over.Hilary Rowell, head of strategy at Dr Foster Intelligence, said: 'Patients need and increasingly expect information about the quality of GPs, and GPs will be increasingly expected to demonstrate quality.'At the moment, the incentives on GPs to think about, understand and improve the quality of service they provide are limited, even with the quality and outcomes framework.'Ms Rowell said the work was currently at an early stage but would be likely to include a combination of hard data such as referrals, prescribing patterns and possibly QOF scores, as well as patients' experiences and outcomes of care, complaints and feedback.She said data currently on GPs' own practice systems might be accessed through local partnerships and self-reporting. 'If you do it in a way that engages them, there's a lot in it for the ambitious and committed GP who wants to attract patients and run a successful business.'Dr Foster Intelligence is undertaking research to explore what the best measures are and how to present them.But Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, was scathing about the plans and questioned whether prescribing and referral patterns would be relevant. 'Even if you could explain what it meant, I don't think most doctors would agree what it meant.'RCGP chair Professor Mayur Lakhani, who was embroiled in controversy last year after reports he was discussing a 'star ratings' system with ministers, warned: 'The question is who should develop standards for accreditation – should it be the profession or an external body? 'Do you want PCT managers, American companies or external agencies to accredit practices or do you want a local team of GPs and nurses who've been trained to do that?'Dr Paul Hodgkin, a Sheffield GP who founded Patient Opinion, a website that allows patients to comment on English hospitals, said he had been in discussions about developing a primary care guide for some time but had not worked out how it could be done.The National Audit Office criticised the Department of Health in February for setting up Dr Foster Intelligence without going out to tender.

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What GPs might be rated on

• Referral patterns• Prescribing data• Services offered• Complaints• Feedback• Patient experience• Outcomes of care• QOF scores

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