UK IT Strategy helps patients select GPs and hospitals

Implementation of part of the UK IT Strategy promises to publish patient-derived scores on individual practices – allowing patients to select a practice most suited to their needs. 
Data published for the first time today will help patients choose the right GP surgery and help GPs and the NHS to make improvements to the way they do things, the DoH press release claims.
Data on over 8000 GP practices in England will be used to form a new measure of patient experience for each surgery based on things like:
•    How convenient it is to get an appointment;
•    The length of time you have to spend waiting in reception;
•    What the opening hours are like; and
•    Whether the doctors and nurses are good at explaining things and listening to patients.
Each GP surgery will get a score out of ten, and this will help patients to choose which surgery to register with as well as help drive up standards within the profession. This data will be based on patients’ responses to the GP Patient Survey.
Health Minister Lord Howe said: "As we set out in our Information Strategy, we want to make it easier for patients to find the best NHS care for them. 
“Giving patients more information about their local NHS is a big part of our commitment to transparency and using data to drive improvements. 
“Opening up this data is another step forward in giving people more choice. Patients will now be able to see exactly what the experience of being a patient at each GP surgery is really like.
“This data will not only help patients choose the right GP surgery for them but will also give GP surgeries and the NHS new information they can use to make fresh, innovative improvements.”
The new data on patient experience will be available to patients on the NHS Choices website, which allows patients to make quick and direct comparisons between different GP practices in their area and choose the right GP for their needs. People will also be able to find a GP surgery with experience of treating people with similar conditions like diabetes, coronary heart disease and epilepsy.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patient’s Association said: “We welcome these proposals, because they will result in more information being available for patients when they are making a choice about which GP to register with. They will also enable patients to compare the performance of their own GP with others. 
“Our Helpline is seeing a trend of increasing complaints about GPs, covering a number of areas, including difficulties obtaining an appointment, complaints about the behaviour of the reception staff and other factors that affect their overall experience. 
"These changes will not resolve these issues overnight, but providing clear and easily comparable data is certainly a step forward.” 
As well as the patient experience measure, new data and an analytical tool will be published on the NHS Information Centre website to support GPs and the NHS to make improvements. This includes data on how many patients from each GP surgery didn’t attend their first outpatient appointment at hospital, and delivery of pneumonia vaccinations for at risk patients like those over 65 or who have long term chronic conditions.
This is part of the Government’s commitment to opening up data about health services and making it available to patients and the NHS. 
In addition to the Information Strategy, last month the Government introduced the NHS ‘friends and family’ test, which means that in the wards and A&E of every hospital, patients will be able to answer a simple question: whether they would want a friend or relative to be treated there. 
Making those answers and this data public and comparable will give everyone a clear idea of which GP surgeries, wards, A&Es and hospitals are providing the best care – which will encourage others to make improvements.