LMCs barred from discussing surveys with GPs

Patient Survey: DoH guidance says patient surveys remain confidential until 30 June under data laws

Officials are trying to bar practices from sharing their patient survey results with their LMC.

The GPC is contesting the accuracy of the survey, which has left many practices facing five-figure losses.

But DoH guidance, released to PCTs this week, said that survey results are bound by the National Statistics Code of Practice and are thus confidential until they are published in full on 30 June.

'Where a practice asks to share the results, PCTs should remind practices that they should not share any information from this dataset... without the prior agreement of the DoH,' the guidance says.

'This includes local professional representative bodies.'

A note attached to the guidance document explains that the rules are intended to 'maintain public confidence in the integrity of official statistics'.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy GPC chairman, said there was little PCTs could do to stop GPs from discussing results. 'Practices are extremely concerned, and it is certainly not for LMCs to stop them talking about it.'

He added that he believed the note had been included in the guidance to prevent a repeat of previous incidents in which the government has been criticised for pre-empting its own statistics. 'But to take it to this extreme is, frankly, unworkable.'

The guidance also tells PCTs that they should pay practices the QOF points merited by their 2008/9 survey results now. Disputes over practices' entitlement under indicators PE7 and PE8 should not be used to delay payment, it warns.

But where no survey results are available, practices will not receive the relevant QOF points.

The GPC argues that the low completion rate - probably due to the questionnaire's size - makes the results misleading.

The DoH disagrees, arguing that the Statement of Financial Entitlements 'does not require a minimum number of responses to generate a result; one response is sufficient'.

It says it will discuss the matter with the GPC, however. Survey results will be published in full on 30 June.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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