GP practices are being asked to report huge reams of data to NHS England so that their performance can be monitored and any ‘unwarranted variation’ can be investigated, it has emerged.
Practices are being asked to log onto an NHS England website to complete details on their surgery’s practice staff, suitability, premises and equipment, access to and availability of practice services, information about the practice and its procedures and its governance.
The ‘assurance management’ website, www.primarycare.nhs.uk, replaces the annual reports that were historically collected by PCTs, will allow for NHS England to spot any outliers and hold GPs to account in a ‘robust and fair’ way.
An NHS England policy docment said the system would enable LATs to hold GPs to account. ‘Unlike PCTs, the area teams will be operating across a greater footprint, working with a greater number of practices and with fewer staff. This means the area team will not have the same degree of personal relationship, insight or knowledge of every practice that exists currently between PCTs and practices,’ the document said.
‘Again recognising the area team retains contractual accountability, the practice/CCG/area team/LMC relationship, supported by a centrally provided, transparent and consistent suite of measures, in conjunction with robust, fair and consistent guidance for the management of service and performance improvement, will ensure risks to quality and patient safety are addressed in a timely and proportionate manner.’
Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson said the data was already publicly available, but this would pull it all together in the same place, which could be a good thing.
He said: ‘The fear is that it will be used as a performance management tool as it will identify outliers but it doesn’t tell you why. It may be because of the demographics, or for a whole host of reasons.
‘But the way NHS England has been talking about it, and I’ve been involved in some of the meetings and discussions about it, is that the intention is to identify data which you can then look at and discuss in your practice.’
But some GP practices have expressed exasperation in the face of the news, which had come on top of dealing with a whole host of new administratory requirements such as CQC compliance, revalidation and dealing with the payment chaos that has ensued since PCTs were abolished.
On one forum, a practice manager said: ‘When are we supposed to have the time to digest all of the information that is being forwarded to us, action it and still deal with the day to day running of the surgery? There just seems to be so much e-mail traffic, with more and more requests for work to be done, it’s becoming a full time job just to view the e-mails.’