Managers rule out survey appeals

GPC urges practices to appeal over access survey as some lose £16,000.

This year's contested patient experience survey results are unlikely to be overturned, according to the NHS Confederation.

The GPC has urged GPs to appeal en masse against the results of the 'appalling' patient experience survey, which was posted to patients and included in the QOF patient experience domain for the first time this year.

But the NHS Confederation's PCT Network director David Stout said the GPC had signed up to the conditions of the survey, and so had no grounds to complain about the methodology.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said that the survey, worth £7,416 to an average-sized practice, was deeply flawed. Response rates were so low in some cases they were statistically insignificant, he said.

A DoH spokesman said PCTs may make small 'ex gratia' payments if response rates are particularly low but otherwise, the methodology was robust.

Mr Stout said the losses were 'significant, but not massive'.

'The starting point for primary care organisations is that these are contractual terms that the GPC signed up to,' he said. 'Unless something has gone wrong with the administration, the situation is that we need to wait for the (national) results and then look at how practices can improve their scores.'

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said that senior DoH officials had acknowledged that the survey results contained 'abnormalities', but discussions were ongoing.

He predicted results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would echo those in Scotland, where national data is available. Low response rates have had a 'devastating effect' on practices, with one practice in Lanarkshire reporting a loss of £16,000.

Mike Connolly, a practice manager in Blackpool, said the GPs in his practice were 'gutted' after being awarded just five points out of a possible 58.5.

'This is absolutely diabolical. We have tried to accommodate every single whim of the DoH on access. If we had scored even half the points we would expect £7,500. Instead we have about £1,200.'

Dr David Barr, Kent LMC clerk, said many GPs in his area were unhappy with the results.

'We've had calls from a substantial number of large practices who scored highly in the past and managed to score highly under the access enhanced service. Now it's entered the QOF, the survey methods have changed and they are now losing out.'

National data for the rest of the UK is expected on 30 June.

The GPC argues that withdrawing funding from practices failing on access is the opposite of policy in secondary care.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

Survey problems

Why are scores so low?

  • Survey changed from being handed out by GP to random postal questionnaire.
  • Survey length may put off patients completing.
  • PE8 is about experience of booking three days in advance, which may not apply to many patients.

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