Northern Ireland GP practices have achieved 97% of the maximum Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) points available, latest figures published yesterday (30 September 2009) show.
GP leaders in Northern Ireland say this demonstrates the exceptionally high standards of patient care that surgeries are delivering.
However, the BMA's GPs' Committee in Northern Ireland (NIGPC) says family doctors are angry that many practices have been penalised financially following the results of the recent GP Patient Survey, and that scores in the non-clinical domain have fallen by over 4% to 94%.
Dr Brian Dunn, NIGPC Chairman (pictured), said: "Although GPs have achieved over 97%, this is a fall from last year. This reduction is due mainly to the fact that some practices are achieving very high levels of access, yet are being penalised due to a flawed perception-based survey.
"In future, patients need to realise that when they completing the questionnaire, if their perceptions of access are not accurate, they are actually depriving their practice of income, potentially making access worse."
These comments come a day after research published on bmj.com found the GP Patient Survey to be a "reliable and valid" way to reward practices, and found little evidence to support concerns it has led to unfair payments (see below link).
Yet Dr Dunn said that the government's treatment of GP practices was in "stark contrast" to the secondary care sector where, if waiting lists are long, trusts are given additional funds to improve access.
"In general practice, if practices did not achieve 90% satisfaction in the patient experience survey, the practice lost money," Dr Dunn said. "Some practices lost substantial amounts and consequently may have to reduce doctor and clerical staff hours, making access worse.
"NIGPC would urge the government to scrap this flawed survey and move towards more meaningful measurement of patient access".
Related article: Ticked off: the GP Patient Survey and the true cost of access