Wales wins concession on patient surveys

Success of practice-based 'experience' surveys may signal their return across rest of the UK.

Dr Bailey, the GPC chairman supports surveys in surgeries
Dr Bailey, the GPC chairman supports surveys in surgeries

The patient experience survey in Wales for 2009/10 will be completed by patients in practices, rather than by post.

GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said the controversial survey, which informs the PE7 and PE8 aspects of the QOF, will produce more accurate results if completed in surgeries.

The survey will still be run by IPSOS Mori and contain the same questions as the rest of the UK - worth 58.5 QOF points, or roughly £8,000 to the average practice.

Local, practice-based surveys were scrapped across the UK in 2008/9, when a new questionnaire was sent out by post to five million patients, at a cost of £8 million.

Low response rates resulted in five-figure losses for some practices, despite patients'

overall satisfaction being high (GP, 1 June 2009).

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman welcomed the return to practice-based surveys in Wales, and was hopeful that Welsh results would help persuade the DoH to follow suit in England.

'We might be able to show the DoH that it is a better system as it produces a more reliable result that GPs and patients are happy with.'

In total, just 38 per cent of patients responded to 2008/9 postal survey, down from 41 per cent in 2007/8.

'(Practice-based surveying) is a hell of a lot cheaper and more sensible. You're asking patients about their experience just after they've seen the doctor,' said Dr Buckman.

Arrangements vary across the UK. The 2009/10 patient survey in England is being sent out in postal questionnaires every quarter.

Patients in Northern Ireland will receive the same patient survey as England and Wales but it will be posted just once, between January and March.

GPs across the UK will also see thresholds for the PE7 and PE8 QOF indicators lowered if swine flu targets are met.

In Scotland, the wording of this year's PE8 question has been adjusted, and the survey will be sent out once rather than quarterly.

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