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GP services face extra scrutiny from local government under DH guidelines

GP practices face an extra layer of scrutiny from local government after new DH guidance said practices had a duty to provide councils with information on performance, waiting times and even non-identifiable patient data to prove they are offering ‘effective and safe’ care.

The guidance said that NHS reforms gave councils extended powers of scrutiny to ensure services were ‘safe and effective’, and for the first time this included GP providers, who were previously not subject to health scrutiny regulations.

As a result, GPs had to ‘cooperate’ with local authorities in their scrutiny function, which could include handing over information on performance, waiting times and even non-identifiable patient data.

But the GPC said that GP services were already heavily scrutinised and it ‘doesn’t make sense to add to that’.

The DH said the guidance provides local authorities with advice about how to ‘strengthen the voice of local people’ and ensure that health services are ‘effective and safe’.

The guidance said that the NHS Act 2006 imposes duties on ‘responsible persons’ to provide local authorities with ‘such information about the planning, provision and operation of health services in the area of the authority as it may reasonably require to discharge its health scrutiny functions’.

However, it added that since the NHS reforms last year, these ‘responsible persons’ now include GP practices, who were ‘previously not subject to specific duties under health scrutiny regulations as independent contractors, they are now subject to duties under the new regulations as they are providers of NHS services’.

As a result, it said: ‘All relevant NHS bodies and health service providers (including GP practices and other primary care providers and any private, independent or third sector providers delivering services under arrangements made by clinical commissioning groups, NHS England or the local authority) have a duty to provide such information.’

This included ‘information about performance against targets or quality standards, waiting times’, ‘patient information such as patient flows, patient satisfaction surveys, numbers and types of complaints and action taken to address them’, and ‘any other information relating to the topic of a health scrutiny review which can reasonably be requested’.

But the GPC warned that this did not make sense.

Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘I think it is worth pointing out that GP services, especially in England, are already heavily scrutinised. We have scrutiny from CQC, NHS England and CCGs and this is already an excessive level of scrutiny. I can’t see any logic in adding to that. We are over-scrutinised and it doesn’t make sense to add to that.’

It comes as last week NAPC chair Dr Charles Alessi suggested councils could hold GP contracts.