NHS Digital has apparently admitted that more work is needed ahead of the launch of practice-level GP appointment data this week, according to the BMA.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that plans to publish appointment data for each practice in England from this month would go ahead on 24 November.
The plans were originally put forward by former health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey, but they were not axed by her successor Steve Barclay following a political reshuffle.
But the BMA said it has raised concerns about the ‘accuracy of the data and its potential use’ with NHS Digital, which it said has ‘agreed that further work is required’.
The latest GP Committee bulletin said: ‘GPC England has met with NHS Digital to discuss its plans to publish GPAD (GP appointments data), which will be published at the practice level on 24 November, in the form of an annexe to the current publication.
‘We raised concerns about the accuracy of the data and its potential use, and NHS Digital agreed that further work is required.’
NHS Digital has informed the BMA that the publication will be ‘further updated’ for April 2023 to integrate the practice-level data into the report, rather than being released as an annexe, it added.
There will also be a ‘dashboard’ of appointment data at a practice level that will be available for integrated care boards (ICBs) to access, the bulletin said.
An NHS Digital spokesperson said: ‘We will begin publishing practice-level appointments data later this month, as set out by the Government in Our Plan for Patients.
‘The statistics in the Appointments in General Practice publication are classed as experimental, which means they continue to be developed.’
They added: ‘We have worked with representatives from the GP profession and will keep them updated as we further refine the statistics.’
It was revealed last month that the new ‘experimental’ data will be published as part of the monthly general practice appointments data and will include how many appointments each GP practice is offering and appointment waiting times.
At the time, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) also indicated that the ‘expectation’ set by Dr Coffey that GP practices offer non-urgent appointments to patients within two weeks, as well as same-day urgent appointments, also remains in place.
But the former health secretary previously indicated that the only repercussion for practices that do not meet the expectations would be the potential of patients switching GP.
September, the last month for which GP appointment data has been published, saw the highest proportion of GP appointments delivered face to face since before the pandemic, with under a third carried out remotely.