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GPC warns practices over outsourcing patient participation to private companies

Exclusive The GPC has urged GPs not to use private companies as a shortcut to achieving their patient participation DES after it emerged that GPs are being offered ‘start-up' packages by outside agencies offering to assemble patient representative groups and create practice websites.

The DES requires practices to engage patient reference groups, survey patients for their views on care provision, and ensure they have their own practice website set up, which LMC leaders said was proving particularly challenging for some practices.

Pulse recently revealed that some practices were struggling to meet the terms of the DES, which was introduced in this year's contract, and were feeling confused and overburdened with paperwork.

But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman has written to LMCs to warn GPs against agreeing deals with companies offering packages that include rounding up patients from different backgrounds and age groups for the required patient reference group, website set-up and assistance with conducting patient surveys for about £200-£300.

Dr Buckman said such moves went ‘against the spirit of the DES' and urged practices to instead look to joint GPC and NHS Employers guidance on meeting the requirements of the DES.

He argued that bringing in outside agencies will cost practices money unnecessarily, and that surgeries miss an opportunity to engage with voluntary groups on their patch.

Dr Buckman said he understood why some practices were paying outside agencies to set up a practice website, but argued that even this could be done more easily and cheaper than most GPs realise.

In a circular to LMC leaders, he wrote: ‘Practices may have received offers from third party organisations for 'getting started' DES packages in return for payment.'

'This goes against the spirit of the DES and defeats the object of practices forging closer relationships with their patients, better understanding local need and improving outcomes.'

‘The onus remains on practices taking the initiative in achieving each component of the DES.'

Dr Greg Place, chair of Nottinghamshire LMC, said: ‘I agree that practices should do most of this work themselves, otherwise there's almost no point in doing the DES, as we obtain no financial benefit from it.'

'Nevertheless, setting up a website is one skill that is a little too time consuming for some. The LMC has an approved supplier for web design which we have used, and we are happy to pay for their expertise. We will do the rest ourselves, of course.'


What GPs need to do to meet the Patient Participation DES

-          Establish Patient Representative Group (PRG) from registered patients

-          Agree priorities with PRG and include these in local practice survey

-          Allow Provide PRG to discuss survey, reach agreement on changes in provision and manner of service delivery.

-          Agree action plan with PRG setting out priorities and proposals arising out of survey.

-          Publicise patient participation report on practice website (which must be set up if it does not already exist) and update report on subsequent achievement.