Doctors’ leaders brand new scoring system for GPs as “too crude”

Authors: Adrian O’Dowd 

Publication date:  09 Jun 2012

GPs and their practices are to be scored out of 10 for patient experience under new data being published in England for the first time. Doctors’ leaders, however, have described the data as too simplistic, lacking detail, and creating a risk of overwhelming patients with information.

Data on more than 8000 GP practices will be used to form a new measure of patient experience for each surgery based on several areas including convenience in securing an appointment; length of time patients have to spend waiting in reception; opening hours; and skill of doctors and nurses at explaining things and listening to patients.

Each GP surgery will be scored out of 10 and this patient experience information, which has been gathered from patients’ responses to the annual GP Patient Survey, will be available on the NHS Choices website ( [Link] ) to allow patients to make easy comparisons between different GP practices in their area.

The Department of Health claims the system will help to drive up standards within the profession by helping practices to identify where they have problems and improve on them.

Health minister Earl Howe said: “This data will not only help patients choose the right GP surgery for them but will also give GP surgeries and the NHS new information they can use to make fresh, innovative improvements.”

A BMA spokesman said doctors welcomed the opportunity for patients to give feedback on care they received. The government’s new approach, however, was crude, the spokesperson added. “Reducing surgeries to a score out of 10 fails to allow patients to give detailed responses,” he said. “The rating would also fail to take into account the differing challenges that each GP practice may face, especially in terms of resources, which are increasingly being squeezed.

“The BMA would continue to urge all patients to contact their doctor or local health body with any feedback they have.”

Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, told the BMJ: “The data is limited in terms of what a patient values from general practice. It is the quality of the consultation that is of most concern to patients.

“One of the problems is that there is so much data available already. We have no problem with providing information that is meaningful and of value to patients, but you need to be careful not to bombard them with a tidal wave of information. We also need to be careful we do not provide information that is too simplistic.”

In addition to the new patient experience measure, new data and an analytical tool will be published on the NHS Information Centre website ( [Link] ) to support GPs and the NHS in making improvements.

These developments are described by the department as part of the government’s commitment to opening up data about health services and are in line with the aims of its information strategy The Power of Information, published in May.

The new data are additional to the existing 260 clinical measures of GP surgeries that were first published on the NHS Information Centre and Department of Health websites in December last year.

Adrian O’Dowd London

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: