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'The UK's most improved GPs.' How is that exactly?

A leaflet drops through my letter box. Glad tidings from Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust.

By Steve Nowottny

A leaflet drops through my letter box. Glad tidings from Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust.

‘England's most improved!' reads the headline, with the exclamation mark included to ensure I feel just as excited about the news as they are. I am excited. There's a picture of three smiling people on the front wearing prominent stethoscopes, so this can only mean great news about my local GP services.

I read on.

‘GPs in Tower Hamlets are the most improved in the country, according to independent government research,' the leaflet begins.

Pausing only briefly to try and get my head around that concept – independent government research?! – I read on. This IS exciting. Somehow the government has managed to quantify all the many complex elements of a GP's job description, then measure how well every GP in the country is performing against those many criteria, then do it all over again to see how much they've improved. I wonder how they did that?

I read on.

‘Nine out of ten GPs in the borough are open before work (from 7am), or after work (until 8pm) or on Saturdays. And everyone in Tower Hamlets can see a GP the same day or within 48 hours.'

Oh.

I read on, and it turns out the entire four page leaflet is concerned entirely with access – getting an appointment, getting an early or late appointment, or getting through on the telephone.

Don't get me wrong, these things are obviously important. I may even have availed myself of the extended opening hours on offer (as a GP journalist I'm well aware of the strong economic arguments against the use of precious healthcare resources in this way, but it was soooo convenient).

But surely I'm not alone in thinking there should be better ways of measuring the quality of GPs? Even patients who don't happen to work for Pulse must realise there are better ways to quantify how good a practice is than its opening hours.

Tower Hamlets GPs may well be the country's ‘most improved', and as a punter, I certainly have no complaints. But I'd like to think they'd earned that accolade for something more than offering appointments until 8pm.

Just why are Tower Hamlets GPs 'the most improved in the country'?

Even patients who don't happen to work for Pulse must realise there are better ways to quantify how good a practice is than its opening hours.

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