More than 40% of GP practices believe the information they receive for practice based commissioning (PBC) is poor or very poor, according to the latest Department of Health survey. 

The second quarterly survey of practices for 2007/8 shows little improvement since the survey was carried out three months earlier. A total of 41%, of the 1,398 practices who completed the survey rated the quality of information as poor or very poor, compared to 43% in the first quarter of 2007/08.

Practices also described the frequency of information provision (40%) and the format (39%) as poor or very poor.

Dr David Jenner, PBC lead for the NHS Alliance and a GP in Devon, claimed the results of the survey were a reflection of the failure by some hospitals trusts to enter activity data as well as the inadequacies of the Secondary Uses Service (SUS).

He told EHI Primary Care: “The SUS data stream itself is inaccurate and untimely and some trusts for their part are not entering data on the system for one reason or another.”

When the first quarter results were published in October the NHS Alliance described SUS as ‘not fit for purpose’ and Dr Jenner said this week that he held out little hope for improvements to information provision to practices in the near future.

He added: “The government is so focused on addressing the needs of the 15% of patients who are unhappy with access in primary care but it doesn’t seem to want to address the needs of the 66% of practices who are unhappy with the IT system.”

Dr Jenner said more practices were turning to third party providers for information although he said that still did not address the problem of trusts failing to enter data.

However he said the new model contract for acute trusts did give PCTs the power to enforce trusts to provide timely data although he said the contract did not apply to foundation trusts on existing contracts.

He advised practices to continue to raise information provision as an issue, to be prepared to validate data themselves, to consider third party packages and to work with PCTs and strategic health authorities (SHAs) to resolve the problems.

Dr Jenner claimed SHA action plans published alongside the survey results did little to inspire confidence that information provision would improve.

For the first time the DH has published details of its PBC survey at PCT level as well as the national figures, a move the NHS Alliance has been campaigning for.

However the NHS Alliance claims practices had to wait for the information for several weeks after PCTs received it and that trusts were told to keep it secret in the meantime.

Dr Jenner said: “We are grateful to the Department of Health for making this information public. The survey is a valid and useful exercise that will help all of us who want to see practice based commissioning a success.

“For the future, we hope the Department will provide the results to PCTs and practices at the same time. We are expected to work together as equal partners, and that means we should be treated as equal partners.”


PBC survey

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