GP appointment times set for extra scrutiny from commissioners
GP practices are set for greater scrutiny of their opening hours after NHS managers announced a new incentives scheme that will reward CCGs with funding worth £1 per patient to increase patient satisfaction with GP access.
Under the Quality Premium scheme, CCGs will earn £1 per patient if at least 85% of patients reporting that they had a ‘good’ experience of making a GP appointment in the July 2017 GP Patient Survey.
It comes as patient satisfaction with GP access has been dropping, to 73% in January.
For those regions well below the 85% satisfaction, the £1 per patient can be earned by showing a 3% improvement from the score they achieved in July 2016.
GP leaders said they had significant issues with the Quality Premium system that sees CCGs having to chase money that’s rightfully theirs, and said for improvements in satisfaction the Government needed to invest in core general practice.
It follows a concerted effort by the Government to increase GP access and create a seven-day service, despite evidence that there is little evidence for Sunday opening.
Meanwhile, GP practices will be required to record the availability of evening and weekend opening for routine appointments under the 2016/17 GP contract deal.
General practice consistently scores among the highest overall satisfaction rates of any part of the NHS, but satisfaction with opening times and appointments has dropped - despite more than 90% of patients saying they get appointments at times convenient to them. .
The Department of Health has recognised the drop in overall patient satisfaction is a consequence of the ‘pressures that GPs are under’.
But NHS England has said that the new incentives will ensure the ‘importance’ of patient satisfaction is underlined.
The CCG Quality Premium guidance states: ‘Access to GP services, and, in particular, the ease of making an appointment is a key measure of patient experience, and affects the wider healthcare system as patients who find it difficult to access GP services may seek care through emergency services inappropriately.
’Attaching a quality premium payment will also ensure that the profile and importance of insight about patient experience is underlined, and it will incentivise the wider system to review and learn from the findings of the GPPS.’
But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘The workload pressures in general practice are rapidly increasing and practices are struggling to meet those demands. the way to achieve greatest satisfaction is to invest more, and there’s a direct link between the investment in practices and the satisfaction patients have in that practice.’
This comes after Pulse reported another 20% of the premium is set to be linked to CCGs boosting GP use of the new e-referrals service, while CCGs will also receive extra funding for reducing antibiotics use.
Patient satisfaction with GP services
opening hours special report PPL - online
General practice consistently scores among the highest overall satisfaction rates of any part of the NHS, with 84.9% of patients in the 2015 GP Patient Survey saying their overall GP experience was ‘good’ - including 42.7% who said it was ’very good’.
But satisfaction with opening times and appointments has dropped.
In January, the survey found 73.3% of patients said they had a ‘good’ experience of making an appointment, compared with 73.8% in 2014 and 75.5% in 2013.
However, at the same time, 92% of patients said they got an appointment at a time which was convenient to them at their last attempt.