Patient survey results out, but not available

My practice received the results of the nation patient survey today. As most practices are probably aware these relate to last year, 2008/9, and apply to two new indicators in the Patient Experience domain. Just as a reminder -

PE7 Patient experience of access (1)
The percentage of patients who, in the appropriate national survey, indicate they were able to obtain a consultation with a GP (in England) or appropriate health professional (in Scotland, Wales and NI) within 2 working days (in Wales this will be 24 hours).
Range 70-90% 23.5 points

PE8 Patient experience of access (2)
The percentage of patients who, in the appropriate national survey, indicate they were able to book an appointment with a GP more than 2 days ahead.
Range 60-90% 35 points

As you can see these command quite a lot of points, more than Stoke, Heart Failure, Cancer and Palliative Care combined.

Now that we have seen our results we are absolutely ... Ah, can't actually tell you how we feel about them. I can tell you other people aren't happy and are questioning the statistical validity due to very small sample sizes, but not if I feel the same. You see it is a secret. It is not, I hasten to ask our secret but instead it is the government's secret - at least until a time of their choosing. The statistics came with this warning:

The data is restricted until full national publication of all survey results by the Department of Health. The data must not be shared with any third parties except where expressly permitted by the Department of Health. This includes giving any indication over the content such as "favourable" or "unfavourable" comparisons of data.

Sharing of individual results with GP practices is permitted. Any communications with GP practices over their individual results should also enforce the confidentiality of the data and the duty not to share the data with any other third party ahead of official publication. A template letter will be available from the Department of Health to help in this regard.

PCTs should also refuse any Freedom of Information requests for this information, given national plans to publish the GP patient survey data. Any wrongful release of data to any other third party should be reported immediately to the Department of Health and may lead to an inquiry.

Now, I would hate to spoil a good press conference (30th June apparently) but we are now in the bizarre situation situation of GPs trying to get a handle on whether there is a systemic problem here without proper information. I personally receive three copies of the survey, all with different ID numbers and returned them all!. It is impossible to see if there is a problem or not without the data. Emails going around are a little cryptic as they can't disclose the data. All in the name of a stage managed press release. Expect to see a lot of argument about this over the next couple of weeks.

Update your address, possibly

I am delighted to announce a new feature on the site about which I am quite excited although I must admit may disappoint a lot of you.

Over the past couple of years I have received a steady trickle of emails about practices with incorrect details on the database. This can because practices have moved, merged, or changed hands. Commonly it is due to not terribly good details in the first place. It can be impossible to tell one practice from another within the same building in some cases.

Other emails have pointed out that this site appears rather higher in the rankings of search engines than their own website which caused confusion amongst users.

The answer is to allow practice to update their own details. This can be more easily said than done however. It required quite a bit of messing around in the entrails of the site although the same process has given a more intelligent search form.

The really difficult bit is trying to unsure that only practices can change their details. Somewhat to my surprise the NHS IT people have not yet provided a reliable way of making sure that a GP's identity on-line is who they say they are. The closest I can come is the old style email addresses in England which contained the practice id as part of the address. For many practices, even with addresses this old address will still work. For practices outside England so such system has ever existed to my knowledge.

So please have a go if you can, and my apologies if you cannot. Suggestions for an on-line verification scheme for other practices gratefully received!