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PMS crackdown flouted data rules

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: The nationwide crackdown on PMS GPs pay was triggered by advice from Department of Health experts which flouted rules on openness of public bodies and data protection, Pulse can reveal.

NHS Primary Care Commissioning, the DH’s policy implementation arm, has been forced to withdraw guidance urging NHS managers to investigate top earning GPs by trawling through their superannauable income figures.

NHS PCC failed to make it clear that trusts should tell GPs why they needed the data, prompting the Information Commission ruled the move breached its standards on transparency.

GP leaders said the development had thrown a question mark over the legality of the clampdown and said it proved PMS practices had been targeted unfairly.

The original guidance circulated to PCTs said: ‘The PCT may wish to review GP superannuation returns, in order to understand levels of personal income to GPs, against levels of PCT investment in the GMS/PMS contracts.’.

But in new watered down guidance agreed by the Information Commissioner, the sentence reads: ‘The PCT may wish to establish a number of key principles before embarking on the options.’

The new guidance also includes a much clearer demand for transparency adding: ‘If information is requested from practices the purposes for which that information will be used should be made clear to the practice/GPs when the information is requested.’

The National Association of Primary Care said the Information Commission’s intervention confirmed its worst suspicions about the series of PMS reviews.

NAPC vice president Dr Peter Smith said: ‘This confirms that PMS GPs have been targeted in ways that are unfair and unjustified and adds to our determination to defend PMS practices who are being subjected to this process.’

The NAPC has offered to fund a legal test case challenge against trusts it suspects are acting illegally.

Dr Peter Smith