By Ian Quinn
GP practices face being landed with an annual bill of more than £20,000 for drawing up new reports demonstrating the quality of their services, Pulse can reveal.
The Government has approved plans to make every practice produce so-called quality accounts to be published on the NHS Choices website, in an effort to increase patient choice.
The scheme is set to go live across all practices in April 2011, but documents reveal the price tag of producing the data.
Providing information on areas such as patient safety, experience and outcomes data could be huge, with the annual cost to providers estimated by the Department of Health at between £14,000 to £22,000.
Some respondents to a consultation on the scheme, which ended last week, claim the eventual cost could even be even higher, with the DH’s own impact assessment warning money and resources could be diverted from patient care.
‘Many respondents commented this would be a large burden for small providers,’ admits the DH’s response to the consultation.
However, it added: ‘There are clearly benefits to the public of increased patient choice and provider accountability. Quality accounts will improve the quality of patient care and those benefits outweigh the costs.’
The DH claims the majority of respondents were in favour of the requirement for all providers to produce quality accounts, although only 60 out of 170 respondents were in favour, with seven opposed but many unsure.
Pulse has previously revealed that under the plans, originally proposed by Lord Darzi, PCTs will be able to withhold pay from GPs if they cannot demonstrate the quality of their services.
But a DH impact assessment warned: ‘Producing quality accounts places additional burdens on NHS providers, consuming resources for patient care.’
In its consultation response, the BMA gave a guarded welcome to the plan for quality accounts, but warned they could be used to provide unfair comparisons between different types of practices, and could be ‘skewed’ by the media to attack GP performance.
GPs face annual £20k bill for quality accounts