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Another report showing “too much variation in standards” of GPs

March 25, 2011

The King’s Fund has published a report this week providing yet more evidence of the huge variation in quality of services provided by GPs.

Led by a panel of experts, including the past President of the RCGP, the report outlines clearly why patients should take real time to carefully select their family doctor. Far from all being the same, the way in which GPs handle a whole range of conditions from cancer referrals to long-term conditions showed there was “too much variation in standards”.

What this actually means for patients is that your health and outcome of treatment will vary depending on which GP cares for you. (The same is also known to be the case for choosing specialist, hospital care.)

It is encouraging to see the King’s Fund call for doctors to be more open to comparing performance with their peers, something that I and others have been highlighting for some time as a proven path to improved healthcare quality.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant”, and it is only when comparative performance data, including patient experience, is made fully, transparently available in ways that are meaningful to the public that we will see a narrowing of the bell curve of variation. Until that time, choose your doctor with great, great care.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. amcunningham permalink
    March 27, 2011 11:30 pm

    The report certainly acknowledges variation, but is very unclear about the causes of the variation (p98 on). So we don’t know that publishing this data will lead to changes. It might do, but we don’t know. And we don’t know if the changes will be in the direction we want.

    • March 28, 2011 7:17 am

      Thank you for your comment and valid observation.
      It is interesting to highlight the lack of understanding about the reasons for the variation – although we know all too well the impact and result of these variations on patients.
      It will be interesting to see how increased transparency and awareness affects the situation. There are numerous examples of outcome transparency improving outcomes in other medical situations (both in the UK and internationally) – but as you say, no one can tell if this will also be the case for the serious variation we see in UK general practice.

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