New NHS data has been released showing waiting times for appointments at GP practices across Nottinghamshire. The figures, released on Thursday, November 24, detail how long it takes to get appointments at 131 surgeries across the county in October.
It breaks down the appointment waits into seven time frames; same day, one day, two to seven days, eight to 14 days, 15 to 21 days, 22 to 28 days and more than 28 days. But leading GPs say the statistics are incomplete and "at best misleading".
In the summary of the data the NHS says the aim of the publication is to inform users about activity and usage of GP appointments historically and how primary care is impacted by seasonal pressures, such as winter. Officials said they hoped it would help “improve transparency about performance”.
However, Michael Wright, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Local Medical Committee, said it was incomplete data. "What we're really worried about is people taking the data and then making league tables to say who the best and worst practices are. We don't think it's data you can use to compare, it's incomplete and it doesn't show the whole picture of how practices are seeing their patients," he told Nottinghamshire Live.
"We think it will just scare patients, the public will think their practice is rubbish if they see them as being one of the lower performers but they won't realise that perhaps they're doing an awful lot more work that's not visible to see everybody."
In Nottinghamshire, the provider to record the most appointments was Belvoir Health Group, carrying out 7,479 across three surgeries in Rushcliffe. Of those, 2,049 happened on the same day, with just one taking place after 28 days or more.
Elsewhere, Woodlands Medical Practice in Sutton-in-Ashfield took more than 28 days to carry out 614 appointments out of a total of 1,854. Mr Wright said that many practices may talk to patients about their care but will not put in down as an appointment on the computer system. "It's just not reliable information to use. Practices are likely to be seeing patients outside of that appointment data.
"It's about the size of the practice too. Our practices in Nottinghamshire probably range from around two or three thousand patients to 30,000 patients." Mr Wright said that GP practices "are not against transparency" but said the figures were "at best misleading".
Dr Carter Singh, a GP at Willowbrook Medical Practice in Sutton-in-Ashfield, said the figures could be misrepresented. Describing his own area as one of high deprivation, he explained: "You could have two practices, one mile apart as the crow flies, one could have massive deprivation and disease follows deprivation.
"They could have a whole host of challenges that the one down the road does not have. If you use the data to beat the practice round the head with it it's not productive for anybody. What they need is more support and resources."
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We promised to prioritise patients and improve access and that is exactly what we have done – and this is just the start. I am determined to make it easier for people to get an appointment with their GP practice when they need one and this will allow patients to make a more informed choice about the care they receive.”
Find data for your GP here