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Independents' Day

'Patient demands' to be bigger part of pay

More of GPs' pay is to be based on their ability to respond to patients' demands.

Patient choice tsar Harry Caton signalled the move after he attacked the new GMS contract for making a 'feeble' attempt to account for patient experience. He told the National Institute for Clinical Excellence annual conference the contract had missed the opportunity to change the health service's 'ignorance of its customers'.

He said: 'The new contract made a small and feeble attempt to get patient experience ratcheted up a little bit. That seems to me rather sad.'

His comments were backed by Dr David Colin-Thome, national clinical director for primary care. He said it was 'inevitable' patient experience would become a bigger part of the contract in future. 'It's a step towards accountability,' he told the conference.

'Some of us would have liked to see more. We have struggled with being more accountable. It's important to change culture and enhance accountability.'

Patient experience accounts for 100 points, worth £7,500 next year and £12,500 in 2005/6, in the framework.

GPs will get 40 points for undertaking a patient survey, a further 15 for discussing the results and proposing changes if appropriate and another 15 for enacting changes. A further 30 are available for offering longer consultations.

GPC Wales chair Dr Andrew Dearden said the points levels had been set to encourage GPs to carry out surveys but not scare them into giving way to unreasonable patient demands. 'This is a step in the right direction,' he said.

'Would they rather have had a series of small steps over five years or one big step people are afraid to take?'

Dr David Jenner, a GP in Devon and associate of the IPQ programme, one of the patient questionnaires available to GPs, said most practices would do something about their results. 'In future perhaps more weighting should be given to evidence of acting on the survey and demonstrating change as a result of involving patients.'

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