GP practices in parts of the country are facing four-figure bills for being revalidated after their PCOs refused to pay the costs of having their colleague questionnaires assessed.
Revalidation, which is set to be rolled out nationally in December this year, will require GPs to collect 360-degree feedback of their competence from both colleagues and patients.
The GMC has said in its guidance on colleague and patient questionnaires that this will need to be carried out by an ‘independent questionnaire company' in most cases.
But while some PCOs have agreed to purchase packages for GPs, others have said it is up to the GPs to fund their own assessments, with one nine-partner practice claiming it could cost them up to £1,800.
Clarity, a company that provides tools for the revalidation, said it had signed up 73 PCOs to use its package. It said that a further 10,000 GPs, whose costs are not being paid by their PCOs, are paying a £50 a year subscription, which includes one assessment as part of the five-year revalidation cycle.
The GMC said: ‘Independent survey organisations will usually charge for the administration of questionnaires. The question of who pays is a matter that should be determined locally.'
PCT clusters that are paying for the packages include NHS Humber, NHS Arden and NHS Outer North East London. In contrast, NHS Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire, NHS Bedfordshire & Luton and NHS East London and the City, said they were not funding at this point.
Dr Dominique Thompson, a GP in Bristol, said her practice was being asked to pay for the questionnaires to be carried out, which would divert resources away from patient care.
‘The costs of doing this are around £100 to £200 per GP. We have nine GPs so we have a choice of spending either £900 or £1800 on this. That will mean that the money is not spent on patient services. That is an awful lot of money on something that I am not sure we have been given the evidence on in terms of the benefits for patients' outcomes.'
Dr Richard Vautrey, a GPC negotiator and GP in Leeds, said: ‘There is a concern at the variation. We would expect that no doctor should have to pay for colleague feedback or patient surveys.
‘It is possible for doctors to use the multi-source feedback that is on the GMC website free of charge. But different areas are suggesting different arrangements for collating that information and the inconsistency in the approach is concerning us. We are taking that up with the national bodies.'