Flawed data hands Darzi centres to wrong PCT

Exclusive - Decisions on where to build APMS practices based on 'out-of-date or simply incorrect' data.

A PCT in the north east of England is to spend millions establishing two new APMS practices because it miscounted the number of practice nurses working on its patch.

The Equitable Access to Primary Medical Care procurement, announced last year, set out plans for 100 new practices in 'under-doctored' areas. The DoH calculated the areas of greatest need using a formula based on capacity, health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Thirty per cent of the formula is based on the number of practice nurses and nurse practitioners working within the PCT. Redcar and Cleveland PCT reported 23.1 nurses per 100,000 weighted population.

But a survey by local GPs found the true figure was 35.2, meaning that the PCT's figures were out by more than half.

The figures used by the PCT placed it in the 25 per cent most under-doctored PCTs nationally. It was subsequently ordered to establish two new APMS practices, which existing practices have warned could take as many as one quarter of their patients.

If the PCT had used the GPs' figures it would have been in the 50 per cent least under-doctored areas and would not be getting any new practices at all.

All figures used in PCTs' calculation were from the September 2006 census. It is not clear whether the PCT's figures were accurate at the time, or simply wrong. If the former, it raises questions over how much of the £100 million funding is being spent in areas no longer under-doctored.

Even if this is an isolated case, at least one under-doctored PCT is missing out on investment.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the blunder was 'not surprising'.

'The mislocation of practices in areas where they're not required - and not putting them where they are - means they are giving taxpayer's money to the private sector, while taking it away from patient care,' he said.

A PCT spokesman said it was 'assured that all data used in the assessment of need is accurate and robust'.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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