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NHS England refuses to release details of Carr-Hill formula review group

Exclusive NHS England has refused to release details of the technical group who will be reviewing the Carr-Hill allocation formula for GP practice funding, saying that the release of the information was exempt from the ‘public interest test’.

A request from Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act for the names of the delegates in the group reviewing how to ensure more funding is shifted to deprived areas was rejected, and an appeal was also rejected.

The move is in contrast to the previous review of the Carr-Hill formula in 2007, when NHS Employers set out on a Carr-Hill review by publishing the full list of people tasked to carry it out.

The findings of that review were never implemented, but another technical group was formed in March 2012 to implement a Government pledge to increase funding for practices in the most deprived areas via a so-called ‘patient premium’.

The changes were initially agreed in principle for 2013/14, then postponed to 2014/15, have been finally delayed to 2015/16.

Pulse has learnt that the group does not currently include representatives from the GPC, although the BMA is represented by its health policy unit instead.

But a request for details on the other members of the group was rejected by NHS England.

Responding to the FOI request, NHS England said: ‘The negotiating parties agreed to this review and a technical group was formed in March 2012. The group was co-ordinated by NHS Employers, with membership from the Department of Health and the British Medical Association’s Health Policy and Economic Research Unit. NHS England replaced the Department of Health as members from April 2013.’

It added: ‘NHS England holds this information. However, this information is exempt under section 40(2) (personal information) of the FOI Act, as the information constitutes third party data. Section 40(2) provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied.

‘Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA), where it would be unfair to that person/is confidential. Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption and therefore not subject to the public interest test when considering disclosure of information.’

NHS England also refused to provide further details around specifics of the brief that secret review group is working to, beyond saying it is looking at how to better factor in deprivation factors – a promise given in 2010 as part of the coalition agreement – and that this had been delayed.

A BMA spokesperson said that the work of the technical group was at an ‘early stage’ and that there was ‘nothing to report’ as yet.

But Dr Fiona Cornish, a GP in Cambridge and a member of the GPC, said NHS England should be more ‘transparent’.

She said: ‘I think that’s naughty. I think it should be very transparent and I think it is poor that you can’t access the details of it. The GPC should feed into it because we are the actual practising doctors. I mean, I think GPs ought to be able to find out how they are going to allocate the money.’

The Carr-Hill formula, named after the professor who devised it and introduced as part of the 2004 contract, is applied to practice populations to calculate the global sum each practice receives, and reflects a range of factors such as patient demographics, mortality and rurality.