Former practice manager Tony Brown explains why he is no longer prepared to lose sleep over ‘meaningless’ targets
I’m looking forward to the announcements just after April that the world of primary care has been solved at last and all patients are super happy with how quickly they can get an appointment.
For 2023/24, the big ‘made up target to satisfy some headlines’ has been to introduce the GPAD system. GPAD stands for General Practice Appointment Data, and its part of the Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) target around access to patient appointments (also known as ACC-08) for all practices in England.
In summary, the outcome that is required is to show that patients can access a GP appointment, or first contact appointment, within two weeks of their request.
The reasons that some practices aren’t yet hitting this target is that they haven’t yet ‘mapped’ the correct appointments. So, for instance, if a practice offers appointments to patients six weeks in advance, then those further than two weeks ahead count AGAINST the target.
If a clinician would like to see a patient in a month for a review, that counts AGAINST the target.
I’m aware there is now exception reporting in place recognising there are good reasons why an appointment may not happen within two weeks but that functionality didn’t go live until the end of the December, which has still meant months of stress and worry.
In any case, I wonder who this is fooling? I question the reasoning behind this too, all this has target has delivered is fudged data for others to share and celebrate.
I was lucky enough to get some winter sun in Tenerife last week and tried to explain this to my non-NHS friend. I apologise in advance for my analogy .
But here goes …
Imagine the target set was we will only see blue or red cars on the road by the time of the next election. The target is 100% blue or red cars.
In order to make that happen, we have to exclude any other colour car: silvers, golds, purples and yellows.
If we exclude all of the non-red and non-blue cars then we can celebrate a huge achievement, while we are rightly challenged by anyone who can see and live the real outcome.
I’m hoping you can link my thoughts and this blog when you are told you have missed your IIF target. I’ve now learned not to stress about targets I can’t achieve and don’t mean anything. I wish the same for you too.
Tony Brown is a former practice manager and now Chief Operating Officer at North Shields PCN Collaboration. His views are personal and not representative of any organisation in which he works.