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New patient participation DES hit by delays as take-up stalls

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The number of GPs signing up to the new patient participation DES is stalling due to the organisational chaos resulting from savage PCT job cuts, with only a quarter of practices signed up to the new DES so far.

PCTs were given until 31 May to offer GPs the new enhanced service, which was funded through cash released by the reduction in extended hours payments and pays practices to establish a patient representative group, carry out annual patient surveys and agree action plans to tackle issues raised.

Several PCTs had indicated they hoped to have practices signed up by the start of this month.

But a Pulse snapshot survey of 15 trusts this week found only 414 out of 1,761 practices had signed up to the DES so far, with GP leaders blaming PCT staff cuts for the delays.

However, PCTs have made more progress signing practices up to the QOF's new quality and productivity indicators, with 84% of GPs now having requested data on prescribing.

Some 263 practices – 15% – across the 15 areas have already agreed plans with their PCT to improve prescribing.

The new indicator specifies that GP practices 'conduct an internal review of their prescribing to assess whether it is clinically appropriate and cost-effective, agrees with their primary care organisation three areas for improvement and produces a draft plan for each area no later than 30 June 2011'.

A number of PCTs reported that practices were still deciding on whether to sign up to the patient participation DES.

NHS Portsmouth said the local LMC was holding a training event this week, including a session on the patient participation DES, and said practices were waiting until after the event before deciding whether to formally sign up.

NHS North West London, a PCT cluster now covering more than 400 practices, said: 'This DES is still work in progress and we should have an idea of numbers by July.'

Dr Deborah Colvin, chair of City and Hackney LMC in London, said her PCT had only just offered the patient participation DES to local practices. She blamed the delay on this year's late announcement of the GP contract and organisational upheaval caused by PCT restructuring, with many trusts having been found to shed staff as they struggle to hit demanding efficiency savings targets.

Dr Colvin said: 'They've only just started the process of offering it, so it's too early to say. It's all been delayed and the PCT has just been cut in half and lost half its staff.'

Chris Locke, secretary of Nottinghamshire LMC, told Pulse 12 out of 60 practices in Nottingham had so far signed up, and said cuts to PCT staff had also hampered progress in the East Midlands. 'The difficulty is that the people we had been communicating with are fast disappearing,' he said.

Dr Deborah Colvin: delays on patient participation DES made worse by PCT job cuts Contract progress

24% - Proportion of practices to have signed up to the patient participation DES to date

84% - Proportion of practices to have requested data on prescribing for the new QOF indicators

15% - Proportion of practices to have signed off QOF plans with their PCT to improve prescribing

Source: PCT figures covering 1,761 GP practices

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