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Patient survey to become optional as phase-out begins

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GPs north of the border will be able to opt-out of the patient survey this year, after the Scottish Government decided to scale back the controversial scheme and make it optional.

The move means that GPs who achieved maximum QOF points on the controversial PE7 and PE8 access indicators last year will be able to opt out of the survey this year and continue to receive their full QOF access funding.

GPs who failed to achieve full QOF marks from last year's survey will be able to opt in to a scaled-down version of the survey in order to try and increase their access scores and earn maximum QOF points – but could lose income if their scores worsen.

The cost-cutting move has been made after Ipsos MORI's contract with the Scottish executive expired. The future of the patient survery is also in doubt in England, with the Government expected to use it as a bargaining chip in GP contract negotiations this autumn.

In Scotland, patients' overall satisfaction with their GP increased this year, unlike England, where patient satisfaction scores dipped.

GP leaders have suggested this may be because the Scottish survey has only been carried out once a year, while the English survey is carried out quarterly, which could have lead to patient fatigue.

In the latest issue of its GP ‘Good Practice' newsletter, the Government outlined its decision to make the survey optional from now on.

It said: ‘The Scottish Government will not carry out a Patient Experience Survey in 2010/11 but instead will be offering a limited survey, covering the patient access questions only, to GP practices who achieved less that full QOF points for indicators PE7 and PE8 in 2009/10.'

GP leaders said the move was a vindication of the good access being provided by GPs, but said it was mainly being done as a cost-cutting measure.

Dr Peter Shishodia, medical secretary of Lothian LMC and a GP in Edinburgh said: ‘The Government felt doing it again was a waste of money.

‘GPs can do it again if they achieved less than the full points, but it is a bit of a gamble, as if they achieved less than last year, their income would reduce.'

GP patient survey