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Firm to rate GP practices on dashboards

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: A private company plans to rate GP practices on their use of hospital resources on behalf of consortia as part of proposals for it to take on a key role in performance management.

Harmoni, a private provider of out-of-hours services that is also now screening GP referrals remotely, is to develop applications to allow a consortium to track the contractual performance of practices and other providers in its area.

GPs could also be monitored on their patients' use of out-of-hours services and their discharge planning, and patients will be able to rate and comment on GP practices.

It comes as Londonwide LMCs signed up to a new GP outcomes framework, developed by NHS London, to publish outcomes and performance data for all practices in the capital, covering 6,000 GPs.

The Harmoni and NHS London schemes are designed to gear up for the Government's so-called information revolution, which requires much more detailed information to be published about practice performance, for use by both patients and commissioners.

Duncan Cranmer, director of Harmoni, said the company's plans would include monitoring GP performance and referrals across a care pathway.

He said: ‘Consortia will be within their rights to demand data from their providers. For GP commissioners, it could be a performance management dashboard and a way of monitoring GPs and other contract providers.'

Mr Cranmer stressed the development was at an early stage, and tentatively set for launch in late summer if pre-market testing, scheduled to begin this week, was successful.

‘We could be contracted to oversee performance management of GP practices. We can also help capacity plan for the future to make sure providers are working in the most efficient way.'

NHS London said its scorecard would provide minimum standards GP practices should be measured against on a wide range of indicators, including immunisation rates and one-year cancer survival.

Data will be circulated among practices from this week and made public from the summer, as ‘the intention is the standards will help patients compare practices in deciding where to register', particularly if practice boundaries are abolished.

Dr Howard Freeman, a GP in Wandsworth who led the project as NHS London assistant medical director, said the tool would drive up quality and identify failing practices: ‘We envisage GPs using it initially but ultimately we want this to be used by the public.'

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage insisted the scorecards were not a threat to practices: ‘Many GPs feel pressurised because PCTs are monitoring their performance with no real structure. We want a system that is fair, sensible and effective.'

Surrey and Sussex LMC, which covers Croydon, Kingston and Richmond, has also thrown its weight behind the scheme.

Dr Ethie Kong, a GP in Harlesden, north-west London, said: ‘Some areas will do better than others, but that's nothing to do with the quality of the GPs. It would be unfair if patients make comparisons.'

London GP outcomes standards The GP practice outcome standards

• One-year cancer survival rates for breast and lung cancer
• Cervical screening rates
• GP-recorded smoking in the whole population and in those with long-term conditions
• Atrial fibrillation, COPD, asthma, diabetes, CHD, dementia and cancer prevalence
• Immunisation uptake
• Safe, rational and cost-effective prescribing
• Emergency hospital admission and A&E attendance rates
• Patient ratings of consultations and satisfaction with overall care
• How many patients changed practice
• Ability to see a specific GP or practice nurse
• Access and ease of getting through on the phone
• One and three-year significant event reporting
Source: NHS London

Dr Ethie Kong: 'It would be unfair for patients to make comparisons'