Sajid Javid has said the Government ‘never planned’ to have league tables for GP practices, but confirmed it will publish practice-level data, including the proportion of face-to-face appointments.
The Government’s GP support package set out that NHS Digital would begin publishing practice-level GP appointment data and waiting times by spring next year, including the ‘proportions of appointment by different professions’ and whether appointments are face-to-face or remote.
Speaking to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee this morning, the health secretary said: ‘We never planned on having league tables, we never have. That’s never come from the department and it’s never come from the NHS.’
But Mr Javid said: ‘I think what that might be in reference to, by some, is that GPs in their last contract… it included new transparency, the need for more transparency, that GPs rightly accepted, and being able to publish data at a practice level, rather than at the regional CCG level.
‘And that is something that we intend to go ahead with, which was agreed way back in 2019.’
And he added: ‘I think, understandably, a lot about data collection was paused during the height of the pandemic, quite rightly so. But I don’t know where this idea of league tables comes from.’
Mr Javid further agreed with NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard that there is no ‘right number’ of face-to-face consultations practices should be aiming for, as this is likely to vary depending on patient populations.
When asked by Dr Luke Evans MP what the correct percentage of face-to-face and remote appointments was, Mr Javid said: ‘In my mind, there’s no target [for the proportion of face-to-face appointments] … for me, it’s never been about, you know, “it should be 80% or 70%”. So it’s not about a number. It’s about doing the right thing. And ultimately I guess it’s about choice for the patient.’
But GPs should see patients face-to-face even after a remote appointment, if the patient is not satisfied, Mr Javid added.
‘Where you have a patient that wants to be seen face-to-face, perhaps the initial consultation might have been remote but they feel that they should be face-to-face, I think it’s really important to try and meet that.’
The news comes as NHS England supplementary guidance suggested it would not publish the list of the 20% of worst-performing practices identified by each ICS to receive access support.
The Guardian quoted the BMA as saying this represented a ‘significant concession’, however the guidance stressed that the original access plan ‘does not include any intention to publish lists of practices requiring enhanced support’.
It added: ‘Accordingly, templates should be submitted to NHSEI using anonymised codes to identify practices rather than their names.’
Dr Paul Evans, Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC chair, said: ‘I find it impossible to believe that practice-level data will not be interpreted by the press as “league tables”, thus ramping up hostility towards GPs.
‘Sajid Javid and the senior staff of NHSEI are not stupid, and they have ample evidence of the links between their actions, press response and public reaction – I can only surmise that this is therefore deliberate, even if not their stated intent.’
And GPs have been given until 14 November to respond to the BMA’s ballot asking GPs what action they are prepared to take against NHS England and the Government’s access plan.
In the midst of it all, the BMA’s GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey has announced his intention to resign from the role. GPC England will elect a new leader at next month’s committee meeting.