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Practices given six-month extension to complete ‘time-consuming’ workforce survey

Exclusive Practices have been given until November to complete NHS England’s ‘time-consuming’ and ‘intrusive’ GP workforce survey, after the deadline for submitting information on non-clinical staff was pushed back from May.

The GPC has negotiated that only information on clinical staff will have to be submitted for the ‘GP workforce Minimum Data Set (wMDS)’ by the original May deadline, with information on non-clinical staff information being collected in November.

It is believed this will reduce the burden on practices as much of the clinical workforce information will already be extracted from various sources and could be easily transferred into the new census.

The Department of Health has also relaxed the requirement on practices to provide National Insurance numbers – branded ‘intrusive’ by GP leaders – agreeing it will be a ‘desirable’ item for practices to provide and not an ‘essential’ one.

The wMDS must be filled in by all GP practices in England for every member of staff and covers 75 categories, including absences, contracted hours and former staff members’ reasons for leaving.

It is intended to help the Government and commissioners to build up a fuller picture of the primary care workforce to inform them in addressing shortages.

Pulse revealed that GPs had until May to complete the in-depth workforce survey, which also required information including staff’s National Insurance number and date of birth.

GP leaders said the survey was ‘time consuming’ and ‘a significant piece of work’ and the GPC advised practices in February not to begin completing the survey.

The GPC also took legal advice to determine whether GPs could opt out, but found that powers given to NHS England under the Health and Social Care Act allows it to extract certain information without consent.

However, the DH has rolled back on the requirements and the timeframe.

In a letter to the profession the GPC said: ‘GPC has also negotiated a phased approach to the data collection. For the March 2015 collection (with the submission deadline of May), practices will be asked to complete additional data items for clinical staff only, rather than the whole workforce within a practice. This is likely to reduce the workload burden as much of the clinical workforce data will be pre-populated within the PCWT.

‘For all other staff, the deadline will be extended to the end of November 2015 (to reflect the practice position as at 30 September 2015).’

A DH spokesperson confirmed to Pulse that the changes were accurate.

Despite these concessions, the GPC maintain the burden that the extra burden placed on practices should not go unresourced and have called on CCGs and area teams to reimburse practices for the time they spend inputting into the national census.

The letter states: ‘It is our view that declining to resource this work is another example of the Government’s failure to understand the pressures faced in general practice. As such, GPC calls upon local commissioners to fund practices to undertake this work, and is raising this with NHS England, given this data will support the delivery of the 10-point workforce plan.’

NHS England, along with the GPC, RCGP and training bosses recently launched a ten point plan for improving the GP workforce but the scheme has been undermined by a second successive drop in applications for GP training schemes this year.