A country-wide, 18-month inquiry into the quality of GP services has been launched by The King's Fund, a healthcare think tank tasked with addressing future challenges.
Says chief executive Niall Dickson (pictured): "General practice in this country is rightly regarded as the envy of the world.
"But while the overall quality has improved, we know there are significant variations, both in the standards of individual practice and in the services they provide."
The inquiry will focus on areas of potential concern, including diagnosis – particularly among older patients – and delays in testing for certain cancers.
Other areas include the circumstances under which drugs are prescribed, the quality of specialist referrals and the care of patients with long-term conditions.
Launching the inquiry, the King's Fund said: "This is an age of increasing transparency in which good professional practice can no longer be assumed but must be demonstrated.
"Patients and those who commission services increasingly require information on quality, and professionals themselves want to be able to benchmark their own practice and services.
"What we do know is that while there are many excellent practices, there are others in which standards are not as good as they could be."
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"The reported statements from Mr Dickson seem to have the tone of presuming there IS something wrong with practices. As part of the inquiry seems to be related to referrals and diagnostics, I trust the assumptions will also extend to examining the poor support GPs receive from secondary care and PCTs where "standards are [equally] not as good as they could be" – Alan Moore, Cheshire
"If the government were as concerned about their own probity and value for money as they are about public sector workers, and those services which are provided directly to the public, it would indeed be a day we would all remember. I don't believe there is a need for this inquiry, it is yet another waste of public money – money which could be spent treating someone's cancer" – John Harwood, London
"Not another survey? How much is this one costing!?" – Ann Sisson, Suffolk
"Providing the right questions are asked, ie, that there is not built bias in the questions asked (unlike the patient survey!), why should any well-organised practice be worried?" – Dave Holmes, Grimsby