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Patient calls data won’t be used to track GP performance, NHS England claims

Patient calls data won’t be used to track GP performance, NHS England claims

GP practices will be required to provide specific data on call volumes to NHS England, but this is not going to be associated with any targets, its director of primary care has claimed.

In 2024/25 the GP contract will be amended to require practices to provide digital telephony data on eight metrics through a national data extraction, for use by NHS England, ICBs and PCNs.

The commissioner said that the purpose of extracting this data ‘will be to better understand overall demand on general practice in advance of winter’.

But GPs worried this could be a way of tracking performance, with NHS England’s national director of primary care Dr Amanda Doyle facing hundreds of questions on the topic during a webinar on the contract last week.

The eight metrics NHS England will track

  • call volumes
  • calls abandoned
  • call times to answer
  • missed call volumes
  • wait time before call abandoned
  • call backs requested
  • call backs made
  • average call length time

GP leaders have also told Pulse that the data could be used to identify practices who are underperforming or even ‘quoted against GPs’.

During the webinar, Dr Doyle said that there will be ‘absolutely no targets associated with it’ and ‘no financial implications for it’.

She said: ‘Until October we are saying to extract the information yourself, have a look at it within your practice and your PCN, and look at what it’s telling you about the profile of your demand, the numbers of calls that are not getting through, and what that means.

‘We don’t need to know any of that but I would advise you to do it because practices that are doing that are finding huge benefits from really understanding when demand is coming in.

‘From October we will be able to extract that data nationally but there’s not going to be a target attached to it, it’s purely to help us support where improvements are needed, but also to help us evidence the scale of the demand on primary care.’

Dr Doyle also said that NHSE wants that data to be used to put GPs ‘in a better position to understand the demand upon practices’.

She added: ‘It gives the ability for us to demonstrate the scale of the demand on general practice when it comes to winter pressures so we can ensure that ICBs take general practice into account in the same way they do pressures on ambulance services and A&E and actually put escalation opportunities in place.’

However, GPs have warned that this might not be the case once it is implemented.

DAUK GP spokesperson Dr Steve Taylor said that general practice ‘is the most monitored area of the health service’ and has demonstrated ‘incredible performance’ with existing data points.

‘Despite this NHSE continue to look at ways to monitor GP practices more closely without funding practices to provide for patients,’ he added.

‘Monitoring of call numbers is likely to show even more work being done by practices. Sadly despite doing 20% more, current data is often quoted against GPs. Let’s hope this is not the case for telephone data, but somehow I doubt this will be the case.’

Surrey GP partner Dr Dave Triska said he thinks the intention will be ‘to pick up practices who are “under-performing”, who will then be targeted’.

He added: ‘Now we know why the push to largely pointless digital phone systems.’

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of the department of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said that GPs ‘will want transparency’ about how the data will be used, ensuring it is part of ‘a broader, contextually appropriate’ performance assessment, and providing support for practices to improve their performance.

He said: ‘Engaging with GPs and practice managers in developing these policies can help mitigate concerns and ensure the initiative leads to meaningful improvements in patient care.

‘However, I suspect that all this will be too much for NHS England and ICBs and they will just end up with a lot of data they are not sure how to use.’

Last month the BMA’s GP committee asked NHS England to immediately pause its cloud-based telephony project, following concerns around ‘skyrocketing’ costs for GP practices.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Douglas Callow 5 March, 2024 12:20 pm

Really I think not

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 5 March, 2024 12:40 pm

I do not believe that the position of not using for performance management will last very long – either directly or indirectly via their mates in the Daily Fail.

Fay Wilson 5 March, 2024 12:47 pm

Surely nobody believes this. It is statement of personal belief by an individual on a particular day. It’s not a contractual position. Even if it were, the NHS could change that unilaterally. Better avoid disappointment and work on the basis this is part of its purpose.

So the bird flew away 5 March, 2024 1:37 pm

The NHS cult of blind worship of data collection faithfully preached by the useful Dr Doyle. When will DHSC /NHSE understand that a GP’s way of working cannot be told by mere data?
No doubt the data will be put to some regulatory, or marketable use.

Turn out The Lights 5 March, 2024 2:23 pm

Smells like BS and is BS.

Patrick Young 5 March, 2024 4:52 pm

30 years as a partner

Patrick Young 5 March, 2024 4:55 pm

30 years as a partner. how about monitoring all the many rebuttals by receptionists to NHS111, pharmacy, the MIU, the A&E, Uncle Tom Cobley?

Christopher Castle 5 March, 2024 8:16 pm

It will be used to plan regional call centres for when independent practices cease to exist.

James Weems 6 March, 2024 7:12 pm

Don’t believe that as far as I can delete it from my inbox.

It’s also like counting leaves on trees. You’ll be able to have a list of how many leaves there are in every tree in each wood and forest in the country. Really detailed granular stuff. But completely useless.

Why not go one step further. Find out the percentage of calls is related to patients frustrated cos they can’t contact the hospital or haven’t seen a consultant f2f for three years and they are asking you to just see and examine the patient for them.
I’d love to know that level of data and demand. Could be used to slice off a nice Wedge of the 93pc for us.

Michael Green 6 March, 2024 8:49 pm