The Secondary Uses Service (SUS) is not fit for purpose and is failing to provide GP practices and PCTs with the information they need for practice based commissioning (PBC), according to the NHS Alliance.

The criticism of SUS follows the results of the latest quarterly survey of PBC published by the Department of Health last week. The survey of almost 1200 practices, conducted by IPSOS MORI, found that only one in five rated the information provided by their PCT for PBC as good with more than 40% describing it as fairly or very poor.

The survey, which aims to questions a sample of practices in each PCT, also found that more than 50% of respondents described the managerial support they received from their PCT for PBC as poor.

A third of practices reported that they still did not have an indicative budget for PBC, despite PCT returns which show that virtually all practices have been given a budget.

Dr David Jenner, PBC lead for the NHS Alliance, said the quality of information provided for PBC was vital to the success of the scheme.

He added: “A critical issue is information at practice level. The Secondary Uses Service is not fit for purpose in its current form and needs substantial improvement.”

Dr Jenner told EHI Primary Care that data from SUS was only sent to practices four or five months after the date to which it related.

He added: “What we hear from our PCTs is that SUS isn’t timely or accurate and there is not enough information to fully validate claims.”

Dr Jenner claimed that the delay in receiving the data might mean it was months before, for example, a practice was alerted to a sudden rise in emergency admissions. He said Payment By Results meant trusts were also now effectively charging PCTs on a cost per case basis so the ability to easily retrieve information on individual patients was essential.

The NHS Alliance is calling for an audit standard on validation of hospital charges. Dr Jenner said he would like to see data passed from the provider trust to the commissioning trust within a month and for PCTs and practices to have the necessary information to validate that data within two months backed by IT systems that can reliably and rapidly identify individuals.

Dr Jenner added: “Many practices are not getting any data at all and others are getting in very late and it is often incomprehensible and unreliable.”

The DH survey found that most GPs support PBC and one in three has commissioned services as a direct result. The NHS Alliance acknowledged that there had been “some remarkable success stories” with PBC but claimed that the picture was variable around the country and called on the DH to publish the full breakdown of its survey results by PCT and SHA area.


DH survey on PBC