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GPs will lose cash despite rising patient survey scores, BMA warns

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs face potentially damaging income losses despite outperforming last year's access scores on the controversial GP patient survey, the BMA has warned.

The first yearly survey results for 2009/10 show that GPs comfortably performed better than last year on key access questions linked to QOF pay.

In Scotland's GP access survey, which publishes its results ahead of the rest of the UK, 95% of respondents were able to obtain 48 hour access to their GP, compared to 90% last year, with 84% of patients able to obtain advance access, compared to 75% last year.

The figures come despite survey results for the first three quarters in England, which will publish its full annual results next month, suggesting that overall access scores would be worse than last year, when practices across the UK lost £35m in total.

But although GPs north of the border have fared better than anticipated, the BMA warned that the variation in individual practice results means many will again be hit financially, and has called for GP funding to be less attached to ‘subjective' patient views.

Dr Dean Marshall, chair of GPC Scotland, said: ‘I am pleased that the results show that the vast majority of patients have excellent access to their GP practice.

‘However, good access to general practice is subjective and difficult to define.

‘The results of this survey are linked to GP income and despite these high scores it is likely that some practices will lose much needed funding.

‘We know that patients and GPs find the current appointment systems frustrating. It is important to seek patient feedback and to identify areas for improvement, but the BMA has repeatedly asked for the link between patient perceptions and pay to be cut.

‘Instead, the BMA has called on the Government to put in place measures to support practices that are finding it hard to improve access. This would be a far more effective use of resources that would deliver real results to patients.'

Dr Dean Marshall