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NHS England to collect GP appointment data through winter

NHS Digital will collect appointment data from every GP surgery in the country for the first time from November, as part of new plans to monitor primary care capacity.

Under the draft plans, titled ‘General Practice Appointments Data Collection in Support of Winter Pressures’, NHS Digital will pass data from GP surgeries to NHS England. NHS Digital approved the move on Wednesday.

NHS England said that the work would help inform the ‘drive to relieve pressure on A&E by reducing the number of non-urgent attendances,’ and that it supported moves to improve access to services outlined in the GP Forward View plans, including the rolling out of evening and weekend appointments to 100% of the population by March 2019.

All GP practices will be given six weeks notice before data starts being collected.

NHS England and NHS Digital said that they had made a commitment to fund the data collection project and that while the data would be published, it would not contain any identifiable patient information.

If the data is not collected, NHS England said, there will continue to be a ‘lack of understanding’ of the pressures on NHS services over winter and other holiday periods’.

NHS England said that it would lead the engagement with GPs and that the data collection would be closely related to the GP Workload tool.

The paper highlighted a number of risks to the plan, including the very short timeframe given to collect data, the capacity of the data collector GP Principal Clinical System Suppliers to undertake development and deliver the data within the time available and support for the scheme from healthcare professionals.

The risk that variable data quality could affect how it could be used in future, was also highlighted.

GP leaders have raised concerns that the collection of appointment data will be used to censure, rather than support practices.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The BMA has raised concerns with NHS England about the quality of the data, the difficulty in interpreting the information it receives and, crucially, that this must be used to support general practice in identifying and dealing with rising workloads as we enter the busy winter period.

'It must not be used as a new stick to beat practices with.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    And what about the endless telephone consultations we make which aren't recorded as an appointment.

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  • Then record every contact as an appointment?

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  • doctordog.

    Yes, even 'Good Morning' in the corridor counts.

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  • It will be used as a stick to beat us....only reason ever....what they will argue is not meeting needs if go to ae.....except evidence is noy appt availability but distance to ae that is important

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  • Neil Bhatia

    I agree - record every patient contact - surgery, telephone, email - as an appointment.

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  • So many things we do can now be monitored. This isn't necessarily bad it's just another example of the fact that in reality we are treated like salaried employees. There will come a tipping point.

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  • How is this going to work?
    In TPP even the most basic of data does not seem to be easily extracable, and as for how practices configure it so differently that's another story; God help any analyst working on this project! Best of luck making sense of it all.

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  • *

    So long as it helps reduce pressure on a&e that's all that matters ..sod everyone else ..outside hospital additional work is basically done for free these days anyhow innit

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  • The other day we had 2 clinicians go off sick on the same day resulting in 4 cancelled clinics on that day. No locum cover was available at short notice. From good appointment capacity we were down to trying to cover urgent requests on the day plus all the endless paperwork, visits etc

    Wondering how counting appointments would analyse and take into account these situations or would we just be advised that we didn't provide adequate capacity in case it had escaped our attention.

    Let's hope there is more detail to this other than just counting appointments and that they are not expecting us to be the ones collecting the detail needed to properly understand the pressures on primary care as we have not got the capacity to do their job as well as ours.

    Perhaps the people behind the scheme could shadow a frontline GP. My day starts at 7am and I could keep going long after I sign of 12-13 hours later having had enough for the day.

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  • Good idea . It helps to pay more bean counters at more per hour than a GP .
    It's all about paying themselves. Like I could count how many shoes I wear each day

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