There is considerable support among those working in general practice, their representative organisations and the public, for publishing meaningful information about the quality of care provided by  general practices, finds an independent review published today by the Health Foundation.

The Health Foundation was asked by the Department of Health to review indicators of the quality of general practices across England. The independent charity examined how the indicators could be developed to generate meaningful information that supports improvements to care and helps the public choose which practice might best meet their needs.

The review, which also looked at how indicators are selected and presented, makes a series of recommendations to government, including:

Consolidation, by the Department of Health and arms’-length bodies, of the multiple existing websites currently sharing information about general practice quality, with much more market research on how information is presented to meet the differing needs of health care professionals and the public.

Strongly advising against making a composite score out of selected indicators to indicate the quality of care overall in general practice, or for particular population groups.

Development, potentially by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence with others’ support, of a small set of indicators that show information about what matters most to the public, health care professionals and those accountable for the quality of general practice.

Development of a national strategy for improving the quality of general practice and primary care that guides indicator development, with progress assessed through the Secretary of State’s annual report.

Provision of support to those working in general practice on how to understand and use information to improve patient care.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, comments:

'Stakeholders support intelligent transparency, not any transparency. They support development of a set of indicators tailored to their needs, intelligently interpreted and used to help improve care – not for simple judgement. The indicators we have at the moment are not robust enough by themselves to give a credible picture of the quality of care, especially care which is as heterogeneous as that provided by general practices.

'However, information alone is not enough. A national quality strategy is also needed to support practices do what they are very motivated to do – make changes for the better for patients. Such a strategy could set a rational path for developing better indicators in the future.

'It is an intelligent step for the Department of Health to reach out to an independent foundation for objective impartial advice. I hope the Department will act on the findings.'

Notes to Editors

  • Between June and September 2015, the Health Foundation consulted with a wide range of organisations and individuals, assessed the literature, analysed current indicators as well as the websites on which they are published, and worked with insight agency BritainThinks to understand the public’s views.

  • Indicators of quality of care in general practices in England is by the Health Foundation’s chief executive Jennifer Dixon and policy team members Emma Spencelayh, Anna Howells, Abraham Mandel and Felix Gille.

  • The review is available to download for free from the Health Foundation’s website. The terms of reference for the review can also be viewed on the website.

  • The Health Foundation is holding a free webinar at 8pm on 13 October, providing an opportunity to hear directly from the report’s authors and ask them your questions. Register online to take part.

  • The King’s Fund were commissioned to review how to assess the performance of local health systems which is also published today. For further details please use the following link: www.kingsfund.org.uk/localhealthperformance.

 

Media contact

Mike Findlay

Senior Media Manager

T: 020 7257 8047          

E: mike.findlay@health.org.uk

Further reading

Analysis

Indicators of quality of care in general practices in England

October 2015

The Health Foundation has undertaken an independent review of indicators of the quality of care...

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