GP ‘rescue plan’ potential threat to quality of care.
Today, the Government announced its winter GP ‘rescue plan’ to tackle the ongoing challenges facing primary care. Under the plans, GP appointment data will be published at a practice level, so people will see how well their surgery performs compared to others, effectively producing a league table for GP practices.
There are significant fears in the cancer community that by publishing this data and ranking practices based on the number of face-to-face appointments delivered, the focus will shift from ‘quality of care’ to a numbers game, getting people through the doors a quickly as possible.
Pancreatic cancer can be a complex condition to diagnose. Symptoms of the disease can be vague and therefore mistaken for other more common conditions. Misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer can increase the time between visiting the doctor and getting the correct diagnosis. Publishing GP appointment data will result in a shift in focus from quality to speed, increasing the likelihood that those with vague and non-descript symptoms are misdiagnosed.
Joe Kirwin, Health Policy & Projects Manager, said, “This is a patient second approach. These plans prioritise the type of appointment over the actual care and support provided. If these league tables are implemented, it will result in more cases of pancreatic cancer being misdiagnosed”.
As part of the plan, surgeries will get £250m of emergency funding to help recruit extra temporary staff. However, this works out at around only £33,000 extra per practice which is not enough to deal with the long-term staff shortages in primary care.
Ali Stunt, Founder and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action, said, “There are only a limited number of locum GPs out there. We need the Government to keep its promises on GP and primary care support recruitment if we are going to tackle the long-term challenges in Primary Care. We were promised 5,000 extra GPs in 2015, promised 6,000 extra GPs in 2019. There are now 2,000 fewer GPs than in 2015. We need the Government to keep its promises.”
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