GP access targets facing overhaul

GP access measures could be radically overhauled under plans set out in research that will feed into the wide-ranging King's Fund inquiry into the quality of general practice.

Survey: part of access checklist (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)
Survey: part of access checklist (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

A research paper published by the think tank outlines a 23-point access checklist that will pool information from a range of sources, including the NHS Information Centre, Department for Transport (DfT) and the GP Patient Access Survey.

The paper says the NHS should consider how services should be provided and where they should be located as technology and patients' expectations change.

It suggests drawing on DfT data to assess what proportion of patients can reach their practice by foot or public transport within 15 minutes.

The report also suggests that practices could be assessed on how easy it is for patients to book appointments online, and whether patients can communicate directly with GPs or practice staff via email.

It also calls for GPs to be measured on the percentage of home visits they refuse, as well as compliance with the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

The report said that using measures such as these is 'essential to demonstrate where problems lie, as well as where good practice exists', and the potential for improvement by practices.

It added, however, that the measures should not be applied in a 'one size fits all' way.

Dr David Jenner, NHS Alliance GMS/PMS lead said the proposed access metrics were a 'very mature and welcome approach'. He said: 'It is a moving away from the artificially imposed and meaningless restraints of factors such as 48-hour access targets.'

But Dr Jenner warned: 'We need to be very careful before we start making judgments on practices and directing payments as a result of it.'

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