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Positive verdict reached on practice accreditation pilot

24 March 2009

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The results of the Royal College of GPs’ (RCGP) pilot on primary medical care provider accreditation (PMCPA), announced yesterday (23 March 2009), revealed strong support for a professionally led, voluntary and developmental scheme to recognise quality in nonclinical aspects of care.

The PCMPA scheme was developed using the methodology of the RCGP Quality Team Development (QTD) scheme supplemented with international primary care accreditation schemes and other recent related policy.

The PMCPA pilot was led by the RCGP in partnership with Professor Helen Lester and her team from the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at the University of Manchester.

The pilot was funded by the Department of Health but the standards were developed by a team that included the BMA’s General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC), patient representatives, the Helathcare Commission and the NHS Confederation.

The pilot took place over a 15-week period and involved 36 practices in four PCT areas: 10 in Haringay; eight in Nottinghamshire; nine in Oldham and nine in Warwickshire. Despite the short time, 30% of participating GP practices passed 100% of the core criteria and half of all practices scored 90% or above.

GPs in the pilot practices generally made the initial decision to be involved and then led the scheme, supported by practice managers who co-ordinated the day-to-day workload.

The key findings of the pilot were:

  • PMCPA demonstrated excellence to patients and led to improvements in patient safety.
  • It is valuable, achievable and relevant to primary care and creates a sense of “professional pride” among practices.
  • It works best where there is teamwork with designated responsibilities; shared goals and GP leadership within the team.
  • Practice size does not affect achievement.

The workload was said to be higher than expected but almost all practices emphasised that this was due to the 15-week duration of the pilot; the timing (over the summer) and the fact that it coincided with practices being busy with concurrent demands including the IM&Tdirect enhanced service.

It is envisaged that the full programme will take place over a two or three year period when properly rolled out.

RCGP Chairman Professor Steve Field (pictured) said: “The pilot has been a huge success. It demonstrates that accreditation is feasible – and that it is acceptable to the profession. Professionally led accreditation is the way forward to further improving the quality of care provided by practices.”

Helen Lester, Professor of Primary Care at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, said: “We were delighted by the positive responses from GPs, practice managers and practice nurses to PMCPA, particularly that the criteria were sensible and fitted with their views of what quality practice should be like.

“We were also really pleased that there was evidence, even in the short pilot timeframe, of real benefits for patients.”

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: “We welcome the successful outcome of this pilot and look forward to seeing further progress on this scheme. Accreditation schemes such as this one will help improve quality and safety as well as the patient’s experience of visiting the GP.”

The RCGP is now in the process of setting up a group to implement the full programme, and has had indepth meetings with the GPC and the Department of Health.