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Patients may suffer as GPs put focus on quality data

The GPC has expressed concern that patients could suffer as GPs skew consultations around data collection for the quality framework of the new contract.

Practices should use preparation and aspiration payments to hire data clerks and nurses to do the work so GPs can concentrate on dealing with sick patients, negotiators said.

The contract promises to 'minimise bureaucracy' in the way it requires GPs to collect quality data.

But GPC negotiator Dr Mary Church admitted she was concerned GPs would end up shifting the focus of consultations to ensure a high score. She said: 'There is a concern that GPs will get too bogged down with collecting data.

'There is enough new funding to consider getting other staff to do the more structured review work. We don't want GPs to be doing all that and not seeing people who are ill.

'Nurses can pull out the

data, sign it off and it's done.'

GPs who have been taking part in a pioneering scheme that pays them to meet challenging chronic disease management targets said a significant proportion of their workload had been dedicated to gathering patient data.

The three-year Primary Care Clinical Effectiveness project offers GPs in east Kent up to £6,000 each per year.

Dr Stephen Meech, a GP in Maidstone and chair of Kent LMC, predicted the new contract would cause GPs to spend consultations collecting data rather than focusing on the patient's needs.

He said: 'If you receive a payment for, say, diabetes, there is very much a temptation for GPs to check whether the patient has had an annual review and blood tests, when it is contrary to what they've come in for ­ a chest infection. The tendency will be greater with more income.'

But Professor Richard Baker, professor of quality healthcare at the University of Leicester, thought the financial incentives would have little impact on GP consultation behaviour.

Professor Baker, a former GP, said: 'Often people have a concrete view that if you pay money you get a certain behaviour. There will be the occasional person that does it but it is more complicated than that, especially with GPs who have an altruistic view.'

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