GP practices are struggling with the new patient participation directed enhanced service (DES), a Pulse report has revealed.
Practice managers contacted by the GP publication said that they were confused over aspects of the DES and that the money received was not sufficient for the time and effort it required.
The patient participation DES, launched in April 2011, is a two-year DES that applies to practices in England.
It was introduced to ensure that patients are actively involved in decisions about the range and quality of services provided by their practice.
Practices demonstrating they are actively engaging with representative cross-sections of patients – whether through patient participation groups (PPGs) or ‘virtual PPGs’ (seeking patient feedback via email groups) – can receive an overall payment of £1.10 per registered patient.
However, four months after the introduction of the DES, Sheila McLean, a practice manager in Essex, told Pulse of a “sense of total despondency” over some aspects of it at a meeting with 30 other practice managers.
She said: “It involves massive amounts of paperwork – you have to show evidence that you’ve tried to do everything you could to recruit patients from all elements of your practice population.
“You do all of this and you end up with £1.10 per patient, which is nothing compared to the time and resources you put into all of this.”
She also spoke of “confusion” about survey requirements around the DES. “We don’t know how many surveys to do,” she told Pulse.
“Someone at the PCT suggested we do about 5% of our patient population, another suggestion was that we do 100 surveys. It feels a bit like we’re asking how long is a piece of string?”
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“To make matters worse, this is money recycled from the extended hours DES: extended hours have ongoing costs, long after the DES has stopped. The funding for setting up the groups is only in the first year: the DES was announced with no time to prepare and from the sound of it so little detail that cash-strapped PCTs can write – re-write? – the rules as they go along. Is it worth it financially? Probably not. In the long term? Possibly – especially if the RCGP is allowed to dictate criteria for practice registration” – Mary Hawking, Dunstable