MPs call for practice spending to be made public

MPs have called for patients to have better access to information about GP practice spending, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned this might not be possible.

Jeremy Hunt: wider access to practice spending data may not be possible
Jeremy Hunt: wider access to practice spending data may not be possible

During a meeting on public expenditure yesterday, MPs on the House of Commons Health Select Committee asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt if more information about GP practice spending could be made available to the public.

Rosie Cooper (Lab, West Lancashire) said it was extremely difficult to gain information on GP practice spending, for example on how many nurses a practice employed.

She asked: ‘How do local people know they are getting value for money if there is no real standard process for the collection of GP information?’

Mr Hunt agreed that local people needed to be able to see how their healthcare services ‘shaped up’ when compared with others.

However he said it would be difficult to make practice-level data open to the public. Instead he said it should be down to CCGs to monitor such information and use it to drive improvements.

MP and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston (Con, Totnes) asked Mr Hunt whether he hoped that making information public would hold poorly performing practices’ ‘feet to the flames’.

Mr Hunt replied: ‘Yes, if a CGG finds that it is falling behind the first thing it will want to do is search out those poor performing practices.’

Despite Ms Cooper’s insistence that the public wanted access to spending information at a practice level, Mr Hunt said this might not be possible.

‘We will need to see as time goes on the extent to which we can publish data on a GP practice,' he said. 'We think the new structure will put pressure on under-performing practices.’

During the Committee’s meeting Mr Hunt said that any decision about cuts to local services should be approved by GPs. ‘I want to see that particularly local GPs support the changes and support any changes that are being implemented,’ he said.

Mr Hunt went on to praise CCGs for integrating services and improving health outcomes locally.

‘CCGs in Newcastle are sending GPs into care homes and they have managed to reduce unplanned admissions to A&E from care homes in that area by, I think, 9% which is a very significant change,' he said.

He said it was important that integration was locally driven and not dictated by the DH. ‘I think part of my role and our role as a department is to remove the barriers to integration that have existed previously, rather than to actively promote a particular model of integration that everyone has to follow.’

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