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Practices will be required to collect annual patient feedback under GMC plans

by Anviksha Patel
1 May 2019

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Practices will have to collect patient feedback every year instead of every five years, under new proposals from the GMC.
Published yesterday, the GMC’s consultation document recommends that practices increase the frequency with which they collect feedback, despite acknowledging the continued pressures GPs and the sector are currently facing. 
The GMC also proposes that GPs should reflect on unsolicited feedback, and suggests that they no longer needed to use the structured questionnaire.
The consultation details proposed changes to the guidance on collecting patient feedback, and will run until 23 July.
The GMC said the more regular patient feedback would allow doctors to ‘pick up any issues to address in a timely way’, while recognising the pressure GPs face, claiming it does not want to ‘increase the administrative burden of feedback collection.’
The proposed new guidance says: ‘Annually you must reflect on sources of patient feedback that are available to you.
‘Depending on your practice this could include: spontaneous or unplanned feedback (such as comments, cards, and letters), feedback on your team or the service you provide.’
This replaces the current guidance, which states that GPs need to collect structured feedback every revalidation cycle through a structured questionnaire.
However, the regulator is also proposing that structured questionnaires should be taken out of circulation as it contains too many tick boxes and not enough space for comments.
Instead, feedback will be based on broader questions, such as asking how well they were assessed and how well they felt listened to.
The guidance says: ‘We no longer require doctors to use questionnaires structured around good medical practice, giving them freedom to use other methods and allowing patients to comment on what matters to them.’
The GMC consultation document consists of 14 questions, including the key principles doctors consider when reflecting on patient feedback for revalidation and how to implement such principles.
It also suggests that the feedback process should be as accessible as possible by considering patients with communication or learning difficulties, and not just relying on structured questionnaires.
GMC director of registration and revalidation Una Lane said existing processes make conducting patient feedback ‘harder than it should be.’
She said: ‘Patient feedback is among the most useful information doctors can get for their learning and reflection.
‘But at a time when the profession is under such pressure it shouldn’t be a burden, and we know existing processes can make it more difficult than it should be.’
She added: ‘We want doctors, employers and patients to get involved in our consultation and help shape the way feedback works in the future, which we hope will ultimately help improve patient care.’
‘Five times as burdensome’
Practice Managers Association advisory panel member Mairead Roche said: ‘Collecting feedback and reflecting on it every year will make the process five times as burdensome as doing it every five years.
‘This will increase the admin burden not decrease it, and will also mean GPs will have to build time into their consultations to collect face-to-face feedback.’
Co-chair of the Practice Management Network Steve Williams said he too fears the proposals will not be popular with GPs or their teams.
He said: ‘The current system is linked to revalidation and while the proposal is not intended to increase workload, the chances are that regular collection of such data might well just be transferred to practice staff to administer. 
‘The NHS app could be adapted to allow feedback to be provided, but not every comment can be individually responded to. Expectations need to be managed. ‘
Mr Williams added that it is unclear how organisations such as the CQC will use such data.
The consultation follows on from independent reviews of revalidation, such as Sir Keith Pearson’s 2017 review of medical revalidation and a 2018 report from the UK Medical Revalidation collaboration (UMbRELLA), which concluded the necessity for further improvement to the process for collecting feedback.
Last year, a survey completed by 870 GPs and conducted by our sister publication Pulse, where this article was first published, revealed that GPs spend an average of 55 hours a year on the revalidation process.
Back in 2017, the GMC said that patients should give feedback after every interaction, which would go straight into their GP’s revalidation portfolio.
A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse. 
Additional reporting by Costanza Pearce.