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Patient survey unfit to publish, claims Johnson

Health secretary Alan Johnson has promised the Government will publish the results of its £11m Patient Experience Survey later this month, after coming under growing pressure from GPs and opposition MPs to explain its delay.

Although Mr Johnson only took up the role a fortnight ago, the Department of Health has been sitting on details of its survey into access to surgeries and GP opening hours for almost two months.

This week he told the Commons the report had been delayed because in its original form it was unfit to publish. 'We will publish the document this month,' he said. 'The problem with publication is that the response was so high, we needed a little longer to get the document into a fit state for publication.'

GPs have become increasingly angry that the Government is still refusing to allow them to reveal details from the survey. Practices were told how they had performed in most elements of the controversial survey weeks ago but have been gagged by strict embargoes imposed by their PCTs on the Government's instruction.

Pulse revealed last month that MORI had been instructed by then health minister Andy Burnham to carry out more work on the presentation of the findings, which are thought to have shown up widespread local variations on feelings about opening hours.

However, GPs are believed to have performed strongly in most of the questions included in the survey and Pulse understands many scored more than 90% satisfaction levels from patients over access to surgeries, scores which will be directly related to GPs' directed enhanced service payments.But whereas the Government has been accused of using several reports in the past as a basis with which to bash GPs, practices claim they have been denied the right to spread the good news.

Dr John Givans, secretary of both North Yorkshire and Bradford LMCs, said: 'The understanding in our area is that the Government is "working" on the overall results to spin them.' Dr George Rae, secretary of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, said: 'The delay shows that the survey represented a tremendous endorsement of GPs' work. I think it shows GPs in a good light and the Government did not want that.'

One practice manager, who did not want to be named, said: 'GPs are very angry that they are unable to talk about the positive results that have come from this survey, while the Government waits until it can either spin the news or bury it by announcing it in the summer holidays when everyone is away.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair, has repeatedly challenged the Government to release the results of the survey and has also expressed fear that it will be subjected to spin.

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