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Poor patient feedback will not affect GPs' earnings

Contract negotiators have moved to allay GP fears that dissatisfied patients could put earnings at risk under the new contract.

It emerged last week that GPs will qualify for payments by merely giving patients questionnaires.

The reassurance came as Government-funded research suggested GPs offer less patient-centred care than they think.

Patient satisfaction will be a marker in the quality and outcomes framework of the contract with either the General Practice Assessment Survey (GPAS) or Improving Practice Questionnaire (IPQ) used to assess it.

Dr Tony Snell, member of the NHS Confederation core negotiating team, told Pulse the marker was 'nothing for GPs to be afraid of', however it was measured, as practices would not be paid according to survey results.

'There is no direct link between the amount of money a practice receives and any negative feedback. If they do badly they are not going to be penalised.'

Giving patients the questionnaire will put GPs on the quality ladder but they will increase the amount they earn by acting on feedback, Dr Snell said. 'At the higher level the expectation is they will respond to some of the concerns expressed and report back to a patient group or their PCT.'

Dr Snell's reassurance came as a review of doctor-patient communication by the Government-funded Medicines Partnership concluded GPs are still too 'paternalistic'.

The systematic review of 126 studies from 1991 to 2000 concluded: 'Some patients reported that shared decision making was not feasible because of doctors' attitudes towards it.'

Study leader Kate Cox, a researcher in general practice and primary care at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, London, said the patient satisfaction surveys introduced by the contract could highlight the fact that GPs often overrate the level of interaction they offer patients.

'GPs could be in for a shock,' Ms Cox said.

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