Poor data quality could derail any efficiency gains made through the introduction of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), it is suggested.
According to a survey, the variation in the data inputted by GP practices within a CCG is "huge" and makes it "incredibly difficult for that information to be used beyond the four walls of each individual practice".
It found that when entering data into their clinical systems, practices are routinely missing out details in in-patient activity, are routinely scanning and attaching discharge letters to patients' records with a note of partial read codes, and are failing to record referrals at all.
The study showed practices are also failing to summarise out-patient activity.
"When GP practices worked in isolation, this level of data quality may have been acceptable as third parties would never need or be able to access such information," said Graham Poulter, Managing Director of iQ Medical.
"Now the rules have changed. CCGs need to be able to access that information in order to coordinate and monitor group performance.
"At best, such poor standards of data quality threaten to undermine any successes the CCG has planned; at worst, badly distorted results could damage not only their financial but their clinical performance as well."
Poulter argues that the failure to link referral to discharge to SUS data without attempting to standardise the data entry first, would be to "miss one of the greatest opportunities created by the current NHS reforms".