GMC consults on switch to 'flexible' patient feedback system

GPs are being asked how they should collect and reflect on patient feedback as part of a GMC consultation that proposes a 'flexible' annual process to replace the current five-year cycle.

GPonline reported earlier this month that GPs could be asked to collect and share 'informal' patient feedback every year under GMC plans for a 'much more flexible' process for both doctors and patients.

The regulator is consulting on proposed changes to its guidance, and is asking doctors to give their opinions on how they wish to collect and reflect on feedback from patients, families and carers to support their revalidation.

As well as reviewing patient feedback annually, the GMC is proposing that doctors use ‘unprompted feedback’ - such as letters, cards or comments - when reflecting, and consider how to get feedback from a wide range of patients ‘including those with communication or learning difficulties’.

Patient feedback

The move follows independent reviews that the GMC say have ‘shown that the processes for collecting this feedback need to be improved’.

Speaking at the GMC conference in April, RCGP revalidation lead Dr Susi Caesar - who is working as part of the GMC’s revalidation oversight group - said the current GMC guidance on patient feedback ‘offers relatively little flexibility’.

‘What’s proposed now is that we have a much, much, much more flexible process,’ she said. ‘Patients want to give feedback at a time and in a way that is meaningful to them and accessible to them. That means a far bigger range of ways of giving feedback and it means far more immediacy in the process.’

She added that any new guidance would be ‘simple’ and ‘informal’ and insisted that any new measures ‘will not add burden’ to doctors’ workloads.

Workload burden

However, healthcare professionals at the conference argued that variations in the scope of different doctors' work meant their ability to reflect on feedback more frequently would vary.

One delegate said: ‘As a hospital consultant or a GP who sees a very high level of patients every day on a consistent basis then yes it makes sense that you need to have feedback across your whole five years. But if you’re doing one session a month it is a bigger burden for that person to then get their feedback.’

Speaking at the time, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned: ‘GPs and their teams are pleased to receive feedback from patients on a daily basis, as part of their regular interactions, and as practices they will do what they can to quickly respond to these views. However, GPs also carry a huge workload burden and the requirements of appraisal and revalidation are consistently seen as adding to that burden in an unhelpful way.

'To extend the requirements for formal patient surveys, which have a financial cost as well as additional workload implications, would not be welcomed by many doctors who would see it as yet more bureaucracy to contend with.’

GMC consultation

Una Lane, the GMC’s director of registration and revalidation, said: ‘Patient feedback is among the most useful information doctors can get for their learning and reflection. But at a time when the profession is under such pressure it shouldn’t be a burden, and we know existing processes can make it more difficult than it should be.

‘We want doctors, employers and patients to get involved in our consultation and help shape the way feedback works in the future, which we hope will ultimately help improve patient care.’

Dr Caesar said: ‘Meaningful patient feedback promotes doctors’ professional development and helps create quality improvements in the care we provide. All doctors should get involved in this consultation and be part of the changes that work better for us.’

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