8. June 2012 16:14
Patient feedback on GP practices, including an overall score out of 10, is now available on the NHS Choices website.
The DH claims the new online feature will empower patients both to express their views and to choose the best GP practice for their needs.
The BMA has criticised the new system for reducing multi-factorial patient experience to a single metric.
Patient feedback has been used to evaluate more than 8000 GP practices, based on several factors including ease of securing appointments, time spent waiting in reception, opening hours and communication skills of doctors and practice nurses.
The patient experience data have been gathered from responses to the annual GP Patient Survey.
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 commented that while enabling patients to give feedback on primary care was a good idea, the new approach failed to elicit “detailed responses” or to “take into account the differing challenges that each GP practice may face”.
Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, noted that the metric did not take proper account of patient priorities: “It is the quality of the consultation that is of most concern to patients.”
8. June 2012 14:41
Amidst the confusion over what is happening to the NHS, it’s nice to have a dramatic headline to hold onto. But as Maxine Vaccine observes, the clearest messages are not always the most reliable.
At the end of May, the headline ‘A&E waiting times hit eight-year high’ – or various forms of it – appeared across the UK media. From Sky News online to The Independent, it was the NHS story of the week. After all, it had a reliable source: a study by the UK’s best-respected health think tank, the King’s Fund.
Or did it?
Not only do newspapers and sites often sensationalise the news on health issues, they are often primed to do so by sources old enough to know better. Some proper research takes place, but then a press release gets out that isn’t saying quite the same thing. The recent King’s Fund report ‘How is the NHS performing?’ provides a striking example.
Firstly, the press release on the King’s Fund website had a headline starting ‘A&E waiting times hit eight-year high ’. But the report itself refers to the total amount of time spent by patients in A&E. The increase in time spent in A&E no doubt correlates with an increase in waiting times, but the ambiguity of the press release’s wording was designed to grab headlines – as it did.
It also earned the King’s Fund a sharp rap on the knuckles from Andrew Lansley. He’s a former public schoolboy: when he raps knuckles, they stay rapped. What made an expert research organisation lay itself wide open?
The same press release declared that “the report also found that 40 per cent of NHS organisations failed to meet productivity targets in 2011/12.” No, it didn’t. The report stated that 7 out of 23 NHS finance directors who responded to a KF survey said they were not confident of meeting their productivity targets. It also said clearly that these numbers were “not statistically representative” as the sample is far too small.
Why did the King’s Fund put an attention-grabbing press release on its website that didn’t correctly represent its own research? Because think tanks need the fish food of publicity – and that’s just as true for an ‘independent expert body’ as for one (like Reform) that is simply a lobbying firm. If you’re not on the front page, you are bearing the cross of obscurity up the steep hill of epic fail with no prospect of resurrection.
So the moral is: don’t believe the headlines. If you want to know what’s happening with the NHS, go direct to whatever source the media may be misquoting at you. And for a head start, take a look at some reliable and sensible digest of NHS news. There might be one nearer to hand than you think.
8. June 2012 14:40
Nominations for the third prestigious NHS Leadership Recognition Awards are again being welcomed by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).
The awards recognise and reward outstanding NHS leaders at every level of the health service.
Successful bosses have the opportunity to win several awards ranging from the NHS Innovator of the Year through to accolades for outstanding leaders, mentors and newcomers.
Peer nominations for the accolade – which is affiliated to the NHS Leadership Academy – are also invited to anybody working for, or on behalf, of the NHS in England.
The closing date for any entries is Friday 29 June 2012. More information can be found here.
8. June 2012 12:26
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has criticised press reports that healthcare contractor Serco is providing ‘understaffed’ GP services.
The company is under investigation by the Care Quality Commission following allegations that its out-of-hours GP service failed to sustain either helpline support or GP provision adequately.
In a letter to The Guardian, Lansley stated: “It is premature to draw conclusions until the Care Quality Commission has concluded its investigations”.
Lansley also noted that Serco was contracted by NHS Cornwall PCT to provide the service before the current Government’s NHS reforms.
The CQC investigation follows complaints from Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs in Cornwall that their concerns over the GP service were not being addressed by Serco or the PCT.
‘Whistleblowers’ allege that the service allowed queues of up to 90 patients to build up on its helpline, repeatedly missed target times to visit very ill patients at home, and repeatedly cancelled home visits to reassign doctors to call centre triage.
Concerns have also been raised about the use of staff without medical training for initial patient telephone assessment.
Serco admitted temporary failings but claimed these have been addressed, while the PCT said: “We are disappointed that rumours still persist around the quality of service provided by Serco”.
However, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George commented: “There has been a pattern of complaints and concerns that have come to me particularly over the last year that give rise to question over the safety of the service, alongside other information that suggests the service is being run on the very margins of what is clinically safe.”
Serco was contracted to provide the out-of-hours service in 2006. The contract was renewed in 2011.
8. June 2012 12:12
GPs are considering withdrawing their involvement from the NHS commissioning process in protest over their own pension reforms.
BMA members will vote at this month’s annual representatives meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth on whether to withdraw from the commissioning redesign until an agreement is reached on changes to the NHS pension scheme.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul (pictured), GPC negotiator, said industrial action was not part of the BMA’s plans “at the moment” but doctors were considering withdrawing their “goodwill”.
If doctors did withdraw their activities in clinical commissioning groups (CCG) they would not participate in any work relating to the development of CCGs and other commitments.
“The NHS reforms in England are entirely dependent on the goodwill of GPs,” said Dr Nagpaul.
“One consequence of the Government’s enforcement of pension changes will inevitably result in the loss of goodwill.
“It’s very likely this will impact on the level of engagement of GPs in CCGs.”
A similar motion was passed by a narrow margin at last month’s UK conference of the Local Medical Committee.Other motions set to be debated at the AMR include the call for Andrew Lansley to resign as Health Secretary.
8. June 2012 12:01
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has appointed David Behan as its new Chief Executive following the resignation of Cynthia Bower in February.
The experienced Behan joins from the Department of Health where he currently serves as Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships.
Dame Jo Williams, CQC Chair, said Mr Behan’s “frontline and regulatory experience”, coupled with his “commitment to making a difference for people”, made him stand out from other candidates.
Mr Behan will be tasked with improving the image of the NHS watchdog after it came under fire for its role in failing in oversight at the Mid Staffordshire hospital and from separate reports on its performance by the DH and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.
The new Chief Executive will join the Commission in July. Prior to working at the DH, he served as Chief Inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection.
“I am greatly looking forward to my next challenge of working with the CQC Board, staff and stakeholders,” said David Behan. “I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to lead the organisation that takes action where services are poor and unsafe, whilst providing assurance that our health and care services are fit to achieve quality and outcomes for people which are amongst the best in the world.”