GPs will have patient ratings of their communication skills published for the first time under a new measure of ‘patient experience’ at practices due to be included on NHS Choices, the Government announced today.
The new measure will be based on responses from the GP patient survey and will score practices in England out of ten for measures such as how convenient it is to get an appointment and the length of time patients wait in reception.
Ministers say the patient experience measure will give patients an idea of ‘exactly what the experience of being a patient at each GP surgery is really like’ and will drive up ‘standards in the profession’. But GP leaders strongly criticised the plans as ‘demoralising’ for the profession.
The Department of Health also said it would publish a raft of new data on practices to support GPs ‘to make improvements’. This includes figures on the number of patients who don’t attend their first outpatient appointment at hospital, and pneumonia vaccinations in at risk patients.
Health minister Lord Howe said the plans would make it easier for patients to find the best NHS care for them.
He said: ‘Patients will now be able to see exactly what the experience of being a patient at each GP surgery is really like.
‘This data will not only help patients choose the right GP surgery for them but will also give GP surgeries and the NHS new information they can use to make fresh, innovative improvements.’
Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, said on the social-networking site Twitter: ‘What do you do when a profession is on its knees with work? Demoralize it further by bringing in league tables.’
‘Rating GPs one to ten is not going to enable us to see patients any faster. GPs need support not to be treated as budget-airlines.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy GPC chair said: ‘Star rating was abandoned for hospitals as it was a useless guide for patients, so why introduce this for practices?’
‘It is simplistic nonsense to try and reduce the rich quality of general practice to a single number. It will mislead not help patients.’
The proposals have been welcomed by patient groups. Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patient’s Association said: ‘Our Helpline is seeing a trend of increasing complaints about GPs, covering a number of areas, including difficulties obtaining an appointment, complaints about the behaviour of the reception staff and other factors that affect their overall experience.
‘These changes will not resolve these issues overnight, but providing clear and easily comparable data is certainly a step forward.’