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Don't fill out NHS England's workforce audit, GPC tells practices as it holds urgent talks

Exclusive GPs have been told to hold off on completing a mandatory survey of practice staff, described as ‘intrusive’ and ‘time consuming’ by GP leaders, until the GPC has concluded urgent meetings with the Department of Health.

Pulse revealed in January that GPs had been told by NHS England that they should complete a census of 75 different categories by May, including a report of staff absences, ethnicity and the reasons for staff members leaving, for the NHS workforce Minimum Data Set (wMDS).

The BMA legal department reviewed whether practices can opt-out of the census over data protection concerns, but advised that data sharing powers introduced in the Health and Social Care Act overruled their objections.

As a result, the GPC had said that practices were obliged to complete these forms.

However, the GPC has now advised practices not to begin preparing for the scheme, as has been in talks with the DH over mitigating the ‘significant’ workload burden at a time when GPs are already over stretched.

In a note sent to LMCs, the GPC said that practices should hold off on completing the forms while it holds talks and reviews practices’ legal obligations again.

LMCs have begun disseminating the information, which states: ‘GPC would advise practices to await further guidance before proceeding with the preparation of the data, and GPC will issue further information as soon as possible.’

The GPC had an initial meeting with the DH last Thursday at which the DH agreed to work with the GPC to minimise the burden the wMDS puts on practices and another meeting will take place soon.

The BMA legal department had found that NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre can demand the information under powers granted bysection 259 of the Health and Social Care Act – the same section which blocks GPs from preventing the extraction of their patients’ records under care.data, NHS England’s GP record-sharing scheme.

GPC deputy chair, Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that the GPC had concerns over the ‘huge workload’ for practices, and that practices should continue to hold off completing the forms.

He said: ‘Practices have been raising real concerns about this for a number of reasons; the huge workload involved for individual practices, at a time when they’re already struggling; and concerns about what data is being requested, particularly concerns around requests for national insurance numbers for individuals, which many people have been anxious about.

‘So we’ve met with [the DH and HSCIC], and I think they’re very alert to the problems that this is creating and want to work with us to try and find a better way of doing this. So I think it’s early days, and we’ll see whether we can get to a better place.’

‘I think we’re focussed on issues about workload, the practicality, and the collaboration – rather than a threatening approach. That’s the way to solve this particular problem.’

‘We’re hoping to issue something as soon as possible, but it depends really on the outcome of further discussions with the various parties involved.’

A DH spokesperson told Pulse: ‘All parties agree it is vital we get accurate and detailed information from GPs about their workforce because it allows us to plan for future training and recruitment requirements, and also reassures the public.’

‘However, we understand GPs are under pressure, so we will consider the issues raised by the BMA. We are working together to reduce the burden on GPs of submitting this data, and are hopeful we will reach agreement soon.’

Readers' comments (16)

  • BMA have met with DH & HSCIC - but not with NHS England which has the *statutary* power to demand any information it deems "necessary or expedient".
    Interesting development in relationships between organisations?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Typical out of touch , autocratic Ministry of Trust and Ministry of Plenty join force.

    'For where is the man that has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns; or can say that he has examined to the bottom all his own, or other men's opinions? The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others. At least, those who have not thoroughly examined to the bottom all their own tenets, must confess they are unfit to prescribe to others; and are unreasonable in imposing that as truth on other men's belief, which they themselves have not searched into, nor weighed the arguments of probability, on which they should receive or reject it. Those who have fairly and truly examined, and are thereby got past doubt in all the doctrines they profess and govern themselves by, would have a juster pretence to require others to follow them: but these are so few in number, and find so little reason to be magisterial in their opinions, that nothing insolent and imperious is to be expected from them: and there is reason to think, that, if men were better instructed themselves, they would be less imposing on others.'
    Essay concerning human understanding
    John Locke 1824
    But then again, are we dealing with 'humans'?
    An evil legislation is still a legislation. Non cooperation requires the dare to test the boundary of the law or even breaking it. Agent Hunt did that when he tried to close down a hospital, remember that? How righteous was he!

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  • Is this another GPC gimmick to show they are standing up. Can't understand the logic of some of their actions.

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  • I'm afraid I think there's more chance that HSCIC won't be able to make the IT work by April *16* than the GPC actually acheiving anything at this late date.

    UK dataprotection principles :
    "Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed." or you could just ask for the kitchen sink and hide it and hope no one noticed....

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  • Surely one way out of this task is to register all your staff as patients and then under the data protection act you can only give information concerning them if they have each given a signed agreement.

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  • Whilst I don't want to be too controversial, there are not actually 75 items for Primary Care, there are actually significantly less - the full list of items is only to be extracted from the ESR with no extra burden on anyone. Whilst it is entirely understandable to be sceptical of change and of additional information requests, there also needs to be consideration of why this is being done and the primary reason is to understand the true size of the healthcare workforce to enable HEE to more accurately workforce plan - including for the first time for GPs and practice staff - and therefore ease the undisputed (but not always quantified) shortages of healthcare staff, both in hospitals and community health, in primary care (starting with GPs and practice staff) and even within the independent sector as like it or not, more NHS care is being delivered by the independent sector.

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  • Perhaps the NHSE need remininding that employees are contracted to the Parctice and not the NHS. Only the Practice is a sub contractor to the NHS. My details will not be given to NHSE as this will be a breach of confidentiallity by my employer. Euro law rules

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  • Dear All,
    And another point that is missing is the opt out. Every EU citizen has an inalienable right under the European Charter of Human Rights (EHCR) to have their data protected. Only laws that are needed for the "protection of public health" can override that right. This data collection and the HSCA are not being used for those purposes. Therefore everyone has a legal right to object to having their data extracted for this survey. This is an oft missed point but has been highlighted by Dame Fiona Caldicott's recent report.
    So its nothing to do with workload, they do not have the legal right to extract this data without offering an opt out. period, fullstop, end off.
    Regards
    Dr Paul Cundy
    Chair GPC IT Committee

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  • Vivien Kinch-Jameson

    Thank you Dr. Cundy, I will keep this information for future reference

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  • Anonymous | NHS Manager | 05 February 2015 6:11am

    OR............. To ascertain the exact number required to carry out Primary Care for when the Bidding starts.

    Future employers of Primary Care Staff will want to weigh up the potential profit margins before deciding whether or not to submit a bid for the contract!!!!

    Food for thought........ there are always two sides to every story!!!

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