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LMCs plan to ‘challenge’ NHS England’s ‘poor quality’ GP access data

LMCs plan to ‘challenge’ NHS England’s ‘poor quality’ GP access data
By Costanza Pearce
28 October 2021

LMCs in Essex have said that they are ‘looking at every possible challenge’ to NHS England data on access to GP practices.

Relations between GPs and NHS England are ‘at an all-time low’ as a result of the ‘witch hunt’ set out in NHS England’s access plan announced earlier this month, North and South Essex LMCs added.

The plan will see ICSs submit a list of the 20% of practices in their area with the lowest levels of face-to-face appointments by 28 October to face ‘immediate’ action, among other things.

In a letter sent to local GPs on Monday, North and South Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘The data on which this witch hunt is based is of poor quality and is, at best, questionable in its accuracy. 

‘All practices that are targeted must immediately scrutinise such data and insist on local verification and interpretation. We are looking at every possible challenge to the data.’

He added that the ‘rolling plan targeting the “poorest performing” 20% of practices could ultimately reach every practice’ and warned practices not to ‘think this will only happen to someone else’.

Dr Balmer said the ‘attack on general practice must be resisted’ and that he makes ‘no apology for the forthright language’ of his letter. 

‘Relations between the profession and NHS England are at an all-time low’, he added.

The LMCs also joined the BMA and other local GP leaders in advising practices to ‘refuse to take part’ in the access plan.

They said: ‘Our advice to primary care networks (PCNs) and practices is to refuse to take part in a noncontractual plan which will draw clinical directors into performance managing their own members. 

‘This is a complete abandonment of the fact that the network is there to serve the practices and their patients.’

They added: ‘CCGs will be forced to address this appalling and ill-conceived politically-driven attack on general practice, but it is not in your contract and so any participation is voluntary.’

The LMCs have asked to be present at ‘any and all meetings on this subject between practices and CCGs or CQC’ and said they will do their ‘best’ to ‘support anyone who might find themselves harassed or intimidated by this plan’. 

Dr Balmer urged local practices to contact the LMC office if they are ‘approached’.

Meanwhile, the BMA has urged ICSs and CCGs to ‘resist’ NHS England’s order to submit their local plans for improving GP access – including a list of the 20% of practices with the lowest levels of in-person appointments – by tomorrow.

In its latest email bulletin, the GP Committee said it believes ‘CCGs and ICS managers should resist this punitive and damaging approach and instead work to support, not punish, practices‘.

It comes as GPC England has voted to ballot the profession on potential industrial action and called on practices to disengage from the PCN DES in protest to the access plan.

The BMA has also advised practices to immediately start offering consultations of 15 minutes or more; and apply to close their patient list, as part of the fightback against the plan.

Meanwhile, MPs have requested meetings with GPs to discuss access to practices amid the row over face-to-face appointments.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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