Your GP surgery rated - but how does it compare to the rest in Norfolk?
- Credit: PA
Doctors have reacted with anger to nationwide rankings published online by a health watchdog which places almost every GP surgery in England into one of six bands.
The data, published on the website of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), lets patients see how their local surgery rates, with the highest put in 'Band 6' and the lowest in 'Band 1'.
In Norfolk and Waveney, 53 surgeries were classed in 'Band 6' and 15 were in 'Band 1'.
Four of those in lowest band were in west Norfolk, two in north Norfolk, two in south Norfolk, three in Norwich and four in Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
Of the 53 placed in the highest band, north Norfolk was best represented with 14 surgeries. Eight of the 53 were in Norwich.
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The bands are based on the number of 38 indicators that were identified by the CQC as being a 'risk' in each surgery.
Those indicators include patient experiences and care and treatment.
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Practices with 'risks' were most likely to get the low score for not having documented care plans for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar or for having a large number of patients who said they were unable to get appointments.
Eastern England performed the same as the national average with 11% of the 1,011 practices in 'Band 1', but was below the national average when it came to top ranked 'Band 6' surgeries.
Just over a third were in this category, compared to almost one in two nationally.
A spokesman for West Norfolk, South Norfolk, North Norfolk and Norwich CCGs said: 'It is important to understand that these bandings are in no way ratings or judgments on the quality of care being given by a GP practice – that only comes after a CQC inspection.
'The bands represent an internal CQC process to prioritise inspections and do not reflect concern regarding the quality of care received by patients in these practices.'
Doctors never expected the bandings to be seen by the public as they were drawn up by the CQC for their inspectors to judge which GP surgeries urgently needed inspecting.
It means that doctors practices put in the lowest band – 'Band 1' – have not been visited by the CQC.
'It is confusing at best and misleading at worst for the public,' said Tim Morton from Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee (LMC). 'I don't think it makes any sense to publish as a ranking on a public website as its made up of 38 indicators from a range of different datasets.'
'The idea is to give the CQC inspection some idea of what they should look out for when they visit,' he added.
'We deplore the fact that it has been put into the public domain without being put into context.'
Factors such as the deprivation of an area or the amount of people needing mental health care have not been taken into account in the bandings.
Doctors were largely unaware that the CQC's 'intelligent monitoring' was going to be published, although they were aware the data was being gathered ahead of inspections, Dr Morton said.
The CQC defended its decision to publish the data and said it should not be used as a 'judgment' on GPs.
'We use readily available national datasets for NHS GP practices relating to important areas of care,' the CQC said.
Mike Bewick, deputy medical director at NHS England and a former GP, said: 'We're pleased this report shows that despite the increased pressure on GPs there are so many good and outstanding practices across the country.'
Across England, more than one in 10 of the 7,661 surgeries ranked by the CQC were deemed to provide care below par while almost 50% were in the top band.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients' Association, said: 'We often hear about the difficulties people have trying to get an appointment with their GP. It is an area that general practice has to get right. 'We hope that CQC's work in highlighting this major issue will act as a catalyst and there will be some positive changes.'
• To view your practice's ratings, click here.
• The CQC aims to inspect all GP surgeries by March 2016, with those rated in bands one and two deemed to be the most in need of inspection. They will be inspected from next year.