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GPs told to submit reports on all staff for NHS workforce survey by May

Exclusive GP practices will have to submit a ‘significant piece of work’ to managers on all their staff, including a report of their absences, ethnicity and the reasons for staff members leaving, Pulse has learnt.

The NHS workforce Minimum Data Set – which must be filled in by all GP practices in England for every member of staff by May – covers 75 categories, including absences, contracted hours and former staff members’ reasons for leaving.

The data set is part of NHS England’s new workforce planning drive, but GP leaders say ‘significant’ work will still be required, particularly for larger practices and overstretched practice managers, despite much of the information being automatically filled in with data from previous censuses held on the Exeter system.

The dataset will replace the annual GP census, but requires a much greater level of detail to be inputted for staff members, including elements such as ethnicity and national insurance number.

The GPC sought legal opinion on whether NHS England could force extraction of these sensitive data items about staff, which are normally protected by the Data Protection Act.

However, it found that the information can be demanded 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, NHS England’s GP record-sharing scheme.

The HSCIC, which is managing the extraction of staff information, explain in the Frequently Asked Questions why personal information is required.

The FAQ states: ‘The wMDS project objectives cannot be met without the collection of personal information. For example: without the National Insurance (NI) number individuals cannot be tracked between organisations. The NI number is also essential to determine the headcount of the workforce across different sectors and job roles.’

It added: ‘Effective workforce planning requires information about the current workforce with regard to age profile, gender, ethnicity and capacity (FTE).’

The survey will not collect information on ‘highly sensitive items’ including sexual orientation and religion, and the HSCIC is currently calling for feedback on the steps it has taken to mitigate the risk of private data being used inappropriately.

Dr Nigel Watson chief executive of Wessex LMCs told Pulse: ‘It is for every member of staff, they’re trying to look at the whole of general practice.

‘But I think everybody does believe it’s a bit intrusive, which is why I believe the BMA has taken legal advice, which said that practices should provide that information.

‘If you’ve got a workforce – and if you take my practice, we’ve probably got 40 to 45 employees – to fill all that data in on every single person takes some time.’

However, he added that ‘decent figures’ were needed to plan for increasing the capacity of general practice.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘This will largely fall on the shoulders of practice managers, who are also extremely busy at the moment, and this is just an extra burden for them to carry.

‘The intention is that a lot of it will be extracted from Exeter, but a lot of it will be required to be entered manually. The intention in future years is that it would only be amendments and changes to be made, but that in itself is a significant bit of work, especially if you’ve got a big practice.’

‘We’d certainly want to hear from practices about the practical problems of doing much of this and how much time it takes to do this.’

In October, Jeremy Hunt annouced that Health Education England would lead a major review into GP workforce to end the current ‘guesswork’ caused by a lack of information.

A Department of Health spokesperson told Pulse: ‘It is vital we get accurate and detailed information from GPs about their workforce – it allows us to plan for future training and recruitment requirements and reassures the public.’

‘We have undertaken several pilots over the last two years to reduce the burden this places on GPs who will be able to submit their data on the Primary Care Web Tool which will be pre-populated with information we already hold.’

Please note: this article was changed at 11:25 on 13 January to reflect that the deadline for submitting data will be May 2015, not March 2015 as first stated


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