The GPC had advised GPs to consider dropping the DES following a dispute in negotiations over the inclusion of questions about opening hours (GP, 27 September).
The BMA highlights two questions on the final survey as the particular problem: ‘9) In general how satisfied are you with the appointment times available with your GP?’ and ‘10) Over the past six months or so were you satisfied with the hours your GP surgery was open?’
The BMA takes exception to the wording of question 10. It said: ‘The BMA believes the question is potentially pejorative and seems to encourage the patient to respond that there have been problems obtaining an appointment at the practice. It offers patients “solutions” that have not been on offer because they are not in GP contracts agreed with the DoH and signed up to by previous ministers.
‘Moreover, the government has admitted that it is unlikely to be able to afford extended opening hours.’
The survey is worth an average of £8,000 per practice in England.
GPC chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said: ‘This patient experience survey is in our view totally discredited by the addition of these questions.
‘GPs will continue to consult their patients about their views on the services they provide because we value their opinions.
‘But using a survey containing leading questions, putting words in patients’ mouths and falsely raising expecta-tions is not the way to do it.’
The DoH has accepted that the questions are not part of the access DES but says that ‘the core content of the questionnaire’ was designed in agreement with the GPC.
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt said: ‘The public has told us that access to GPs is one of its highest priorities, so it’s vital we ensure practices can be accessed when the public needs. The GP patient survey will provide us with a patient’s-eye view of how well GP surgeries measure up on flexible booking and telephone access. Patients will also tell us whether they are satisfied with GP practice opening hours.’
The disputed questions:
In general how satisfied are you with the appointment times available with your GP?
Over the past six months or so were you satisfied with the hours your GP surgery was open?