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Trusts begin to cave in over patient survey appeals

The first primary care organisations have caved in to protests over the losses inflicted by the GP Patient Survey and revealed plans to compensate practices.

Several PCOs have already signalled their intention to honour an agreement the GPC claimed was in place that results would only count if statistically valid, in a development that represents a victory for negotiators.

It comes as a Pulse investigation shows one practice in five has already launched an appeal against its survey results, following concerns that poor response rates left GPs at the mercy of small numbers of disgruntled patients.

Two PCOs have so far signaled plans to compensate practices whose results fell outside ‘tolerance levels' for statistical error the GPC claims were agreed with the Government, while others said they would be entering discussions with practices.

NHS Lincolnshire, where 22 out of 102 practices have appealed so far, said it had decided to review its compensation policy after the release of Government advice, adding: ‘Any payments would be in line with the thresholds agreed with the GPC for 2008/09'.

NHS Walsall said payments would be made if confidence intervals ‘were above 7% [tolerance levels]', and that it would also analyse whether results were different from previous years'.

NHS Leeds said it too would launch fresh discussions with practices about whether the results were reliable.

Moves to compensate practices follow a sharp backtracking by the Department of Health, revealed by Pulse last week.

The DH had claimed a single survey response would be enough for results to count, but toned down that message in guidance for PCOs, telling them to consider discretionary payments if practices could prove survey results were ‘unduly skewed'.

Pulse's survey of 41 PCOs found large numbers were appealing all over the UK. In NHS Peterborough, 22 out of 27 practices have already challenged results and in NHS Croydon, 25 of 64 practices have done so.

Most trusts said they were considering appeals based on the DH's latest guidance, but some are refusing to budge and insisting they have no plans to compensate practices, even where appeals are ongoing.

NHS Sefton, which has so far received appeals from eight of 57 practices, said: ‘We do not plan to make a discretionary payment at this stage.'

NHS Ayrshire and Arran, where 35 of 59 practices have appealed, said it had ‘no plans' to compensate GPs.

But Dr Paul Donnelly, a GP in Lincoln whose practice has appealed after facing losses of up to £4,000, said he was ‘encouraged' by his PCT's move to consider compensation.

‘I thought we didn't have a chance, so the fact there seems to have been a reversal is encouraging.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair and a GP in Leeds, said the shift in tone from the latest DH guidance had filtered down to most PCOs, saying he hoped ‘extremely few' would adopt a hard-line approach.

Patient survey: trusts told to consider compensation Patient survey: trusts told to consider compensation Map of patient survey appeals

View PCT action on patient survey appeals in a larger map

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