GP practice league tables must not lead to 'witch hunts'

The government's drive to increase transparency in the NHS must not lead to a 'witch hunt' of poor performers, the NHS chief executive has demanded.

Sir David: clinical commissioning groups must be given the maximum amount of freedom to innovate.
Sir David: clinical commissioning groups must be given the maximum amount of freedom to innovate.

At the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester on Friday, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson said a big challenge for politicians will be to ensure poor performers are given the help and support to improve.

If this does not happen then there will be ‘real problems for the NHS as a whole’, he warned.

On Thursday the DoH outlined plans to publish clinical outcome and prescribing data which could lead to GP practice league tables.

Sir David said: ‘We are all in favour of transparency, but what that will show is that some parts of the NHS are not as good as it should be or want it to be. But we can’t have a series of witch hunts that go around the system.

Meanwhile, Sir David said it must be made ‘much clearer’ now how the reforms are going to work.

He said: ‘We need to make it much clearer now where our people are going to work, what are the structures going to be, how can we get out clinical commissioning groups up and running as fast as possible…We need pace in all of that, but at the same time we need to take great care.'

Sir David said clinical commissioning groups must be given the maximum amount of freedom to innovate. But he said a 'really firm grip' must be maintained on the system during the transition. He said: 'It's a sense of you keep a grip in order to release later. Without that grip you would have very little to release at the end of it.' 

He added that this will be the last year that the NHS has defined management cost targets. He said there will be a move to a focus on managing ‘running costs’ as this doesn’t personalise the agenda.

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