DoH accepts patient survey results are 'unduly skewed'

Up to 40% of practices appeal patient surveys.

The DoH has accepted that the 2008/9 patient survey produced unreliable results - as in some areas up to 40 per cent of practices appeal against their score.

DoH guidance to primary care organisations (PCOs) advises them to consider compensating practices that achieved unusually low results or had very low response rates.

Certain practices' results were 'unduly skewed' by low response rates and fell outside the agreed statistical confidence levels, says the guidance.

Payments can be made where practices provide evidence of good access in previous years from surveys or patient participation groups, it states.

The DoH maintains that the methodology of the survey is sound and was agreed with the GPC. Responsibility for appeals has effectively been handed to individual PCOs, raising the prospect of some paying out and some refusing to do so.

Huge numbers of practices have appealed in some areas. NHS Croydon in south London has received appeals from 25 of its 64 practices. A spokesman told GP newspaper: 'We will agree a process with the LMC to consider each appeal on its own merits.'

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is working with LMCs and the Scottish government to process the 74 appeals it has received from 271 practices.

But other PCTs, such as NHS City and Hackney in London and NHS Portsmouth, refused to discuss appeals until all survey results are published on 30 June.

Earlier this month GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman told the annual LMC conference in London he was confident that there was a legal case for appeals on patient surveys, worth around £7,416 to the average practice.

Several PCTs said they were expecting more appeals to be launched, following a call from Dr Buckman for GPs to appeal en masse at the LMCs conference.

A template appeal letter is available from the BMA. Practice must be able to prove they have consistently provided 48- hour and advanced booking access.

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