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Practices face 'trial by NHS Choices' under rating system

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Giving patients the option to score general practices out of 10 could put pressure on surgeries to open longer and see them put 'on trial' online, according to nurses' leaders.

According to a DH edict, each practice in England will be scored out of 10 on the NHS Choices website, based on responses to the GP patient survey. It is designed to enable patients to make quick comparisons between different general practices in order to choose their preferred surgery.

The data will include ratings on: how convenient it is to get an appointment; the length of time patients spend waiting in reception;
whether the doctors and nurses are good at explaining things.

Health minister Lord Howe said the system would give surgeries 'new information they can use to make fresh, innovative improvements'.

But chair of the RCN's Advanced Nurse Practitioner forum Jenny Aston (pictured) said rating practices in this way was unlikely to boost standards.

'It suggests general practice is like any other commodity to be bought or sold,' she said. 'Convenient appointments are all very well, but if you look at trends, not everybody can have the early morning or the early evening slots.

'We need to be looking at quality and expecting greater levels of responsibility from patients, such as DNAs (did not attends), engaging in healthier activities, and taking medication as advised.'

Patients will also be asked about their surgery's opening hours, and how much information they felt they were given by clinicians.

'I think the opening hours question is likely to lead to cutting out-of-hours cover, and we will be expected to staff from 7am to 10pm with no extra funding,' said Ms Aston.

'I hope the public will use data wisely and that inaccurate or malicious information can be removed. Otherwise, this could turn into "trial by NHS choices" with no opportunity to challenge.'

According to the latest GP Patient Survey for 2011/12, published last week, 81 per cent of patients felt the nurse they saw gave them enough time. A total of 80 per cent of respondents felt the nurse listened to concerns, while 86 per cent had confidence in them.

Just over two thirds (68 per cent) of patients felt nurses involved them in decision making.

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