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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Why the patient survey offers an added bonus

This is only the third year of

patient surveys. However, true to the pace of NHS change, it will be the last one for the survey in its present form.

Yet this year there will be more to gain from the information – gains that could save your practice thousands of pounds.

Among the many changes to QOF this year was the transfer of access payments from QOF to enhanced services. At the same time four key access areas were clearly defined, each with individual payments. They were:

No new money is available and, because of tough payment criteria, it will be more difficult

to achieve maximum payment of £3,500 per 1,700 patients.

We are all therefore looking to minimise inevitable losses. Of the total payment, component 2, accounting for two-thirds of the total, will be based on a Patient Experience Survey (PES) to be done between January and March 2007. This will replace the current patient survey, but for this financial year only both surveys will run.

Most practices have already done their patient survey and the results are now becoming available. The first three of the access criteria listed in the left-hand column are already covered in this survey, providing a reasonable idea of the current position and a great opportunity to improve.

Our own survey is hot off the press and I have checked the

national average figures from this against the new access payments system. This shows the average GP could lose about £1,250 for component 2 (£3,750 per average practice). Within this, it also shows that there would be no payment at all for access within 48 hours for the average practice (current national average is 49 per cent patient approval with minimum payment set at 50 per cent).

It is therefore crucial to check the figures on your own survey carefully and decide if you can improve your access

before the all-important PES

in three to five months' time.

A large proportion of your

patients will attend surgery during this time, so positive changes can make a difference.

First of all check that you exceed the minimum thresholds in each of the first three areas and focus on any that fall below. The patient approval payment thresholds for the four areas above are:

• 30 per cent

• 50 per cent

• 20 per cent

• 40 per cent

As advanced booking is not in the current survey assume a 40 per cent rating at best.

Even if you are above each threshold, payments rise in

several small tiers. Therefore even some improvement attracts more reward. Strategies will vary depending on your

individual circumstances and resources but could include:

This early warning opportunity will not be available next year, so utilise it while you can.

John Couch is a GP in Ashford,

Middlesex

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