Exclusive Around 1,000 practices who did not submit full data from the Friends and Family Test will be subject to training by NHS England in order to prevent many of them from receiving breach of contract notices, Pulse has learned.
NHS England has told Pulse that around 300 practices have breached their contracts by failing to submit any data at all since it became a contractual requirement to do so on 1 January.
However, it said its focus would be on supporting practices on how to submit their data properly through webinars and sharing good practice, rather than resorting to breach notices in the first instance.
GP leaders welcomed the move and said they hope this signals a move by NHS England to stop ‘chucking breach notices around like confetti’.
It comes as NHS England prepares to publish the results from the first three months of the new scheme today (Friday).
As part of the test, practices are expected to offer every patient the chance to answer whether they would recommend the practice to their friends and family, and one other question of the practice’s choosing.
It was introduced as part of the 2014/15 contract, though it was only implemented from January this year.
Practices are expected to collect the data from patients and pass it on to NHS England, who are looking to make the data available monthly in the long term to patients via the NHS Choices website.
NHS England is planning on making contact with the non-compliant practices via their local area teams and offer support over the next few months.
In London, almost a quarter of practices failed to consistently submit the results for the first three months of the year, with Londonwide LMCs issuing a warning to practices to make progress or they could face an NHS England breach notice.
To address the problem of non-compliance, NHS England is arranging a number of practice webinars during June to help address some of the issues that some practices still need help with. It is also exploring ways to share good practice between practices, so that those struggling can learn from others.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘In line with the agreed GP contract, continued failure to submit monthly Friends and Family Test data would be a contract breach, but our focus is on providing support to any practices currently struggling with implementation.’
GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee chair Dr Robert Morley said the position of NHS England is to be ‘welcomed’.
He added: ‘The problem is that practices are now so overburdened, arising from a combination of clinical workload , additional contractual obligations and from other areas of red tape and regulation, that it is inevitable that things are going to slip through the net.’
The Government is trying to ‘shove more and more things into the GP contract which have absolutely nothing to do with providing clinical care to patients’, and the Friends and Family Test was an example of this.
However, he said: ‘I do hope that this signals that NHS England now belatedly recognises the pressure that general practice is under and that a change to a reasonable and supportive stance on its part is better for patients and is going to pay far more dividends than its erstwhile habit of chucking breach notices around like confetti.’
In a newsletter to GPs, Londonwide LMCs said: ‘The good news is that Friends and Family data is overwhelmingly positive about general practice in London. The bad news is that you will likely be offered a breach notice if you fail to submit your data for three months consecutively.
‘In January 2015, 77.6% of London practices submitted their Friends and Family Test (FFT) data for the first time and 88% of patients (52,823) said they would recommend their practice. This is a huge vote of confidence in London’s general practice and a welcome morale boost for GPs and their teams.’