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Health secretary denies there was ever a plan for GP face-to-face ‘league tables’


GP access plan


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.

It also said commissioners must begin identifying the 20% of practices in their area that are performing worst in terms of delivering face-to-face appointments, to face ‘immediate’ action.

This was widely interpreted by the media, and the BMA, to mean league tables of GP practices.

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.’

NHS England has tasked the RCGP with providing guidance on the ‘optimal blend’ of remote and face-to-face care by the end of November.

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.

READERS' COMMENTS [12]

Robert James Andrew Mackenzie Koefman 2 November, 2021 3:29 pm

well those comments want me to back NHSE and Javid then. Um not

David Church 2 November, 2021 3:47 pm

Oh, so the Health Minister never planned to publish league tables, just the bare data for Daily Mail to publish league tables for him, and bash the unluckiest GPs with and incite more violence against Surgery Staff?
Rather underhand, eh?

John Glasspool 2 November, 2021 3:52 pm

“If the patient is not satisfied”. More “wants” rather than “Needs” then. How you folk put up with this, I do not know.

Nick Mann 2 November, 2021 4:10 pm

NHSE did state its intention to collect access metrics, and patient satisfaction metrics. These metrics are to be linked to access to GP funding via the IMF (or whatever it is that that DES honeypot is now called). Funding conditional on achieving certain levels of metrics. That’s a league table – which Daily Mail and Telegraph are happy to publish as first-breaking news from No 10.

Nigel Clark 2 November, 2021 4:26 pm

Just as stated above, the press would soon publish league tables from the data fed to them by the Health Minister and his cronies.
They would probably obtain it in some underhand way before members of our profession, and allied professions do.
This calls for an “I am Spartacus “ moment. That is, “yes I work in one of the 20 per cent”.
“I am proud to restrict unnecessary face to face contacts, to protect the health of vulnerable patients sitting alongside them in our crowded waiting rooms, and to protect our staff members they’ll be coughing all over, and finally to protect myself and my family, who are my real priority, from breakthrough Covid infections which are occurring in people now, even when they have had 2 doses of vaccine.
This virus is not going away any time soon.

Anthony Matheson 2 November, 2021 4:51 pm

And there was me seeming to remember that some Dept of Health numpty (SoS by any chance?) was saying we should get back to seeing patients face to face again (as we know we never stopped unlike many secondary care clinics) because we were almost back to normal re the pandemic. At the same time the daft bumbling blonde mop head was warning that things were by no means over.
As Blackadder would say, methinks he dost twist and turn like a twisty turny thing.

Doc Getmeout 2 November, 2021 6:28 pm

Can anybody believe this guy ever?

His government said there will be 6000 more GPs under their guard with 50 million more appointments.
Now he says forget it – “did we really say this”!!!!
This is how politics work.

Just My Opinion 2 November, 2021 8:37 pm

Unbelievable. If NHSE can say that some practices have levels of face to face appointments that are ‘too low’, then they must, by definition, have a minimum target for face to face appointments.

Patrufini Duffy 2 November, 2021 9:44 pm

NHSE needs a remote consultation, and some form of treatment. Far away.

David jenkins 2 November, 2021 11:19 pm

Q – how do you tell when a politician is lying ?

A – his/her lips move.

Simon Gilbert 3 November, 2021 7:13 am

“Alexa – what is gaslighting?”

Patrufini Duffy 3 November, 2021 4:51 pm

Sajid who?