GPs could be asked to collect feedback from patients every year, says GMC

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.

Under current rules set out by the regulator, doctors are expected to complete ‘one formal GMC-compliant patient feedback exercise in a five-year cycle’ - although the RCGP recommends that GPs reflect on patient feedback annually.

The GMC has confirmed that it will ‘keep the requirement for doctors to do a formal feedback exercise at least once every five years’ in addition to the annual process - and said there would be 'no requirement to use a specific tool or survey’ for the collection of informal feedback.

The GMC proposals come as it prepares to launch a review into patient feedback requirements later this month - and the regulator insisted any new measures ‘will not add burden’ to doctors’ workloads.

GP workload

However, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that GPs 'carry a huge workload burden' and bureaucratic requirements of appraisal and revalidation were 'consistently seen as adding to that burden in an unhelpful way'. He warned that requiring additional patient surveys could increase costs and workload for GPs.

Doctors at the GMC's annual conference last week warned that variations in the scope of different doctors' work meant their ability to reflect on feedback more frequently would vary.

One delegate warned: ‘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.’

Another delegate said that the flexibility of the GMC’s proposals could result in them having little impact. She said that for busy GPs a clear definition of what was required was better than a 'whatever works for you' approach.

Revalidation

But RCGP revalidation lead and chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) revalidation and professional development committee Dr Susi Caesar - who is working as part of the GMC’s revalidation oversight group - told the conference that 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. So [one of] the GMC proposals that we will be consulting on is that doctors reflect on patient feedback every year.’

Dr Caesar said existing RCGP advice that GPs should reflect on patient feedback annually meant the change may not add significantly to GP workload.

She added that any new guidance would be ‘simple’ and ‘informal’. One proposal circulated by the GMC at the conference included ‘encouraging a regular approach by asking doctors to reflect on sources of patient feedback they can access each year’ such as ‘cards, letters and team feedback’.

Patient feedback

Dr Vautrey told GPonline: ‘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 are 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.’

Speaking at the conference, GMC chair Dame Clare Marx said ‘we haven’t got feedback right’.

She added: ‘I think we’ve got to be more creative with our patients in trying to work out how to get that feedback so that we can really understand how what [we] have been doing in that moment with that patient is perceived by the patient and [how it] can actually reestablish trust.’

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