Scottish practices face £16,000 losses in access survey

Practices in Scotland face losses of up to £16,000 because of the methodology of an access survey they excelled in.

Dr Dean Marshall
Dr Dean Marshall

Scotland’s health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has commended practices on access after a survey found 90% of patients were able to consult a health professional within 48 hours.

The poll of 269,186 patients also found that 75% were able to make a booking three or more days in advance at their GP surgery.

However, Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GPC, said: ‘Unfortunately this new survey has failed to get enough patients to respond to it which has resulted in extremely small numbers of patient responses having devastating effects on some practices.

’The government’s 48-hour access target means that practices have to balance the number of appointments available for advance booking whilst ensuring they can offer same-day and emergency appointments. This means that sometimes patients find it difficult to book a routine appointment with their GP in advance at a time to suit them.

’Where practices may be struggling to meet the demands of their patients, they should be supported to improve access, rather than having their funding cut which will make things even more difficult.’

For example, one practice in Lanarkshire stands to lose nearly £16,000 because of the views of only 0.28% of patients of the practice (51 patients from a practice list of 18,000 patients). The practice offers a mix of same-day and advance booked appointments which are consistently filled by patients.

Another practice in Ayrshire & Arran has lost funding of around £8,000 despite offering advance access and pre-bookable appointments as well as offering extended hours appointments throughout the week.

A practice in Forth Valley will lose more than £5,500 despite having repeatedly scored near perfect results in previous practice based patient satisfaction surveys. The practice offers same day appointments and their waiting time for routine appointments is less than 48 hours.

Dr Marshall added: ’As we warned, this new survey, rather than acting as an incentive to improve access for patients, may well result in a lessening of services available to patients.

'It is ironic that practices such as those outlined above stand to lose such significant amounts of funding, particularly when such large sums would pay for staff and services to facilitate improved access. It is likely that these practices will struggle even more next year to improve access when they are having the resources required to do so taken away from them.

'This is another example of the need for the Scottish government to work with the profession to develop policies that are practical, implementable and importantly, that deliver real improvements to patients.’

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'The problems faced by some GPs in Scotland due to this year's patient survey results will worry GPs across the UK. I very much hope that what has happened in Scotland isn't repeated in other nations.'

A Scottish government spokesman said: 'These two indicators affect around 1% of total GP practice income. They were introduced in April 2008 and agreed by the GPC, as part of the UK-wide GP contract negotiations for 2008/9.

'Average earnings for GPs now stand at nearly £90,000 GPs and doctors are therefore being rewarded well for the excellent job they are doing for Scotland's patients.'

Scotland survey results

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